The time is finally here as James Tynion begins “The Joker War.” This is the story that Tynion has been developing since he first came on as Batman’s new writer. Towards the end of his first Batman story arc in “Their Dark Designs” Tynion revealed that the entire storyline was just part of Joker’s latest plot to destroy the Batman Family. Now in Batman, we are going to see what Joker will be doing after stealing Bruce Wayne’s fortune, turning Gotham City against Bruce, and knowing the identities of every Batman Family member. We’ve already seen Joker take action to break both Dick Grayson and Barbara Gordon both in Nightwing and Batgirl ongoings. What will Joker do in Tynion’s Batman series? Let’s find out with the start of “The Joker War” in Batman #95.
Writer: James Tynion IV
Artist: Jorge Jimenez
Colorist: Tomeu Morey
Story Rating: 9 Night Girls out of 10
Art Rating: 8 Night Girls out of 10
Overall Rating: 8.5 Night Girls out of 10
Synopsis: Years ago, towards the beginning of his Batman career, while driving to find Joker, Bruce Wayne talks with Alfred Pennyworth about Joker’s broadcast and how the Joker killed all the test subjects at the chemical plant. Bruce admits that Joker’s motivations are beyond anything he can comprehend as he can see that the Joker views the world as already dead and is just helping people get to that point.
Hearing how Bruce is talking Alfred knows there is more to what Bruce is saying than just that about the Joker. Bruce admits that he believes that Joker is testing his limits as Batman before being caught because he possibly views Batman as the only person alive in his eyes. Bruce goes on to say he isn’t sure when this battle with Joker will never end. Alfred tells Bruce he won’t be fighting the Joker alone.
In the present, Batman does his best to evade Joker’s gang while speeding through Gotham City’s tunnels in the Batmobile.
As that chase goes on all of the news stations in Gotham City report on the news about Bruce Wayne embezzling money to help Batman. It is reported that Harlan Graves, the new legal counsel for Wayne Enterprise and its board of directors, have demanded Batman hand over all illegal technology he obtained. Furthermore, the Wayne Enterprise legal team has repossessed Wayne Manor and is now working with the city to find Bruce Wayne.
It is then reported that the Gotham Gazette has received a multi-billion dollar cease and desist order to retract their story about Joker possibly being behind all that is going on around the Wayne Enterprise and Bruce Wayne story.
Joker’s gang finally corners Batman and fires a rocket that destroys the Batmobile. Joker’s gang can’t find Batman’s body and call Punchline to let her know.
At Wayne Enterprises’ Tricorner Yards Campus, Punchline is fine with this as she has used special Joker toxin to force Lucius Fox to hack into all of Batman’s technology and equipment. Punchline then gets Lucius to tell her everything that he knows about Batman and what he calls the place they are in. Lucius struggles but reveals the place is called the Hibernaculum. Punchline knows that means that Batman was likely training the rest of the Batman Family if what is going on ever took place.
Lucius wonders where Joker is. Punchline keeps it a secret where Joker currently is at.
Over at the abandoned Park Row on Crime Alley, Joker is able to convince the owner to give him the theater, knowing the significance of the place to Bruce. Joker says he is looking to use the theater to start something as he looks through all the old films in storage.
The former owner suddenly hears people laughing. Joker tells the former owner to join the people as he pulls out a copy of “The Mark of Zorro” and gets ready to play it for all the people he used his toxin on.
Back at Wayne Enterprises’ Tricorner Yards Campus, Harlan Graves arrives to meet Commissioner Harvey Bullock and the GCPD. Harlan tells Commissioner Bullock that the Mayor of Gotham City is already putting an order for the GCPD to take down their barricade around Wayne Enterprises, especially as Bullock will be replaced soon.
Harlan is about to mention who his client is but Commissioner Bullock already knows it is the Joker and states he doesn’t care about whatever order Harlan got the city to make. One of the GCPD captains tells Commissioner Bullock that they have to let Harlan through the barricade.
Harlan is driven to the Wayne Enterprises’ Tricorner Yards Campus. As Harlan goes inside the campus main building it is shown that his driver was actually Bruce Wayne in disguise.
Inside the building, Harlan puts on his Underbroker mask. The Underbroker then tells the accountants to give him the Joker’s latest investments and that the Joker wants to buy every theater in the city and all revival and art houses in Burnside.
Outside the building, Batman uses his tech to see all of Joker’s gang inside. He finds an area he can get into and uses another device to create an opening to enter from.
Once inside Batman is immediately attacked from behind by Punchline. Punchline reveals she knew where Batman has all his secret caves in the building thanks to Lucius. Punchline knows that this particular cave was the one Batman, Lucius, and Bruce (Punchline directly mentions Bruce, implying Joker hasn’t revealed Batman’s secret to anyone yet) were planning on activating once they finished their plans for Gotham City.
As they fight Punchline pushes a button that opens a door to a case housing a new chrome light blue Batman suit that leaves Batman confused at who designed it. Punchline then reveals that she and Joker have taken all of Batman’s “toys” and will be using it to kill him.
Punchline then goes on to show Batman that she has filled the room they are in with her special poison she developed by combining Joker’s toxin with Scarecrow’s fear gas and Bane’s Venom that will cause massive withdrawals even when Batman recovers.
Feeling the effects of Punchline’s toxin, Batman tries to escape. As he does he hears Alfred’s voice calling out to him. Alfred tries to get Batman to escape before he dies.
The warning is too late as Joker has deployed one of the Batplane. The Batplane immediately fires its lasers at Batman’s direction. End of issue.
The Good: There is no time to waste. We already got the prelude that builds the foundation for what “The Joker War” was going to be about in the form of “Their Dark Designs.” With that foundation built “The Joker War” can hit the ground running from the opening chapter. That is exactly what James Tynion and Jorge Jimenez effectively do with Batman #95.
There is no messing around with the start of “The Joker War.” Tynion and Jimenez get right down to business as the fallout of Joker stealing all of Bruce Wayne’s fortune and getting the world to believe he was embezzling all of Wayne Enterprise’s money is on full display. This was all done without Batman realizing that this was happening to him until it was too late to launch a counterattack. That feeling of Batman being behind the eight ball is captured well throughout the course of Batman #95.
Opening Batman #95 with an early conversation Bruce had with Alfred when first taking on Joker was a good tone-setter for multiple reasons. Tynion is able to continue to emphasize how important Alfred was in Bruce’s life through this scene. We see how Alfred was able to get Bruce to open up about his thoughts in a way no other person in Bruce’s life can. That honesty shows how Alfred’s death continues to resonate even after some time has passed since Bane killed Alfred.
This also served to continue the thread that Bruce still hasn’t moved on from not having Alfred in his life. Alfred still is a presence in Bruce’s mind even as he has had everything taken away from him by Joker. Which makes the new chrome Batman suit that was revealed later on in the issue an interesting twist. While it is not said who designed the suit Tynion does seem to imply that it was a design Alfred was working on in secret once Bruce completed his current mission as Batman. As we saw in “Their Dark Designs,” Alfred wanted Bruce to grow from just being Batman and help move Gotham City forward. This new suit goes with that theme of Batman become a shining symbol of hope for the future that Alfred envisioned.
Another purpose this opening scene plays is to set up how Batman has never been fully able to grasp what Joker is doing. Unlike all the other villains in Gotham City and the DC Universe as a whole that Batman has taken on Joker is absolutely unpredictable. Joker is the definition of chaos incarnate. There is no reason for Joker to do what he does other than to see how far Batman limits go and possibly be the ultimate victor while breaking Batman completely.
That unpredictability from Joker has clearly shaken Batman. Throughout this issue, Tynion showed us a Batman that was completely off his game. There was no point where it seemed Batman was prepared for what was coming next. It is a completely different position that we are not used to seeing Batman. Because even when villains have had a surprise for Batman there was always a feeling that Batman had something already planned that can get him out of whatever predicament he was in. That is not the case with this opening chapter of “The Joker War.”
Seeing Batman in a spot where he is not on his game made the entire story in Batman #95 exciting to see play out. Tynion creates the question of how Batman will be able to overcome everything that has been placed in front of him by the Joker. Having that question be immediately placed in the reader’s head with the opening chapter of “The Joker War” makes this come across as a big event that will be taking place.
Tynion uses all of this development from Batman’s side of the story to elevate Joker as a villain in the process. There is no telling what Joker has planned with his new fortune. There are a lot of things that Joker is doing, like purchasing all the theaters in Gotham City, that show that his plans are just beginning. Where that is all leading to is anyone’s guess.
Adding in the Underbroker to be a bigger part of Joker’s plans as we learn that his real name in Harlen Graves added to what Joker is doing. Not only is this important to set up how multi-layered Joker’s plan is but it shows that there is no hiding what he is doing. Joker is being completely upfront with his plans that even Commissioner Harvey Bullock knows that Harlen Graves is working for Joker. Things not being kept a secret as to Joker having this new fortune makes how Gotham City as a whole will react even another interesting aspect of this series.
Tynion also continues to do a great job of developing Punchline as a new character. Tynion has set Punchline apart from Harley Quinn with the way she talks and acts. She is working in that wild card role that Batman and others were not prepared to take on when Joker reappeared. Through that unpredictable nature, Tynion is able to put Punchline over as a major threat even though we’ve only known her for a short period of time. Adding in the element of Punchline creating her own version of Joker’s toxin that also combines Scarecrow’s fear gas and Bane’s Venom elevated the dangerous aura she gives off when on screen.
Punchline’s involvement in Batman #95 was also given an interesting angle as we learn through her dialogue that Joker is still keeping Bruce Wayne’s secret to himself. At least that is what is implied with how Punchline mentions Batman, Lucius, and Bruce as individuals. Given that over on Nightwing we’ve seen Joker pair Punchline up with Dick Grayson it’ll be interesting to see what plans Joker actually has with the knowledge of the entire Batman Family’s identities in his head. It is another unpredictable element of “The Joker War” to keep a close eye on.
Jorge Jimenez delivered plenty of great, big event-level artwork throughout Batman #95. Jimenez captured how this issue was constantly moving forward after the opening flashback ended. There was no looking back for Batman as he had to figure out a way to overcome all the odds Joker has placed in front of him. Jimenez did a particularly great job getting over how dangerous both Joker and Punchline are. There is a sense of danger when both Joker and Punchline are on screen in different scenes that brought a different energy to the scenes they were involved in.
The Bad: Nothing
Overall: James Tynion and Jorge Jimenez kick off “The Joker War” in spectacular fashion with Batman #95. The story speeds out of the gate and never slows down as Joker and Punchline push Batman to his absolute limit. Given how things begin with “The Joker War,” there are plenty of things for fans to be excited for as this story has all the makings of a great big event that will impact the entire Batman Family.
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