James Tynion’s first big Batman event has turned out to be a intriguing look into the rivalry with Joker. The focus thus far has been on continuing the thread of where Bruce Wayne is mentally after Alfred Pennyworth’s death. Joker has used the fact that Batman is so off his game to used his newly acquired fortune to completely take over Gotham City. While that takeover has caused a massive amount of chaos in Gotham City not all is lost. As we reach the end of “Joker War” Bruce has been able to get passed his mental blocks and is ready to assemble the Batman Family to strike back against Joker and Punchline. Let’s find out where things go next with Batman #99.
Writer: James Tynion IV
Artist: Jorge Jimenez
Colorist: Tomeu Morey
Story Rating: 6 Night Girls out of 10
Art Rating: 9 Night Girls out of 10
Overall Rating: 7.5 Night Girls out of 10
Synopsis: Joker’s gang finish painting his personalized limousine. Joker gets in and tells his driver to take him to Ace Chemicals by using the long way.
As they drive through Gotham City, Joker revels at the chaos his followers are causing throughout the city. Joker talks to his driver about how Batman’s dream to save Gotham City was nothing more than a child’s fantasy.
On a rooftop Clown Hunter is shown throwing a member of Joker’s gang off the roof as he watches Joker drive by.
Back in the limo Joker goes on to talk about how Gotham City has never wanted to be bound by someone else’s rules and wants to be a dangerous place again. Joker then thinks about how the poison that bleached his skin caused him to be haunted by all the dead so he can be their messenger to show that Gotham City does not belong to Batman.
Joker finally gets to Ace Chemicals and immediately kills his drive. Joker then calls Punchline and learns that she was knocked out by Batman, who has now been active for the last few hours. Joker is not worried as their new Toxin is already being transported to the finishing line. To celebrate that Joker decides to clean things up at Ace Chemicals by killing all of his followers working in the facility.
Joker then tells Punchline to send out a message that for every dead body one of his followers brings him he’ll give them a thousand dollars and if it is a Bat then the reward will be a million dollars. Punchline wonders if Joker is worried. Joker says he is not as he just needs to put his new suit on.
Elsewhere Batman assembles the Batman Family that includes Dick Grayson, Batgirl, Red Hood, Robin (Tim Drake), Signal, Orphan, Spoiler, and Harley Quinn. Batman apologizes for not bringing everyone together from the beginning to deal with Joker. He mentions that Batwoman is already working with the GCPD to storm Wayne Enterprises to cut of Joker’s weapon supply and save Lucius Fox.
Batman then reveals that Batman is gathering all of Gotham City’s citizens at movie theaters across the city to show them The Mark Of Zorro movie and kill them during the showing. Batman tasks the Batman Family to save everyone at the theaters and take the city back while he goes to confront Joker at Ace Chemicals.
Harley Quinn says she will go with Batman but is turned down, which pisses her off. As Robin and Harley Quinn get into it Batgirl tells everyone they don’t have time to argue.
Red Hood sees a rocket being fired at them. Batman throws a batarang that causes the rocket to explode in the sky before it hits them. Orphan and Spoiler then quickly take down the Joker Gang member who fired the rocket at them.
Batgirl tells Batman that she will take back the Clock Tower to coordinate their efforts from their while Nightwing leads the others on the field.
Dick Grayson tells Batman to go while they get things under control. Before he goes Batman gives Dick his Nightwing costume back. Batman says that it is good to have Dick back.
Elsewhere Catwoman leads Penguin and Riddler to the building of Graves, Willock, and Crain. Catwoman reveals that the building is the legitimate front for the Underbroker and his team to manipulate all the money they manage. Penguin is worried because his money is in there. Catwoman says that when they complete their job they will all have way more money than before.
Batman makes it to Ace Chemicals. Before Batman gets inside Harley Quinn stops him by firing a warning shot. Harley Quinn says that they have to make sure to end Joker’s story permanently tonight. Batman says he can’t let that happen. Harley Quinn says that if they don’t kill Joker than he will just keep coming back with a new plan and more followers like Punchline.
Harley Quinn admits she knows Batman could defeat her in a fight so she instead makes him a deal. Harley Quinn says that if Joker kills Batman then she is going to take the killing shot and end things with the Joker then and there. She goes on to say that if she sees Joker pull a trigger on another person she won’t hesitate to put him down.
Batman says “No.” Harley Quinn tells Batman to knock her out right now to the point she can’t get back up to finish Joker off. Harley Quinn ends by saying this story with Joker needs to end. Batman walks away, leaving Harley Quinn to stand outside Ace Chemicals.
Batman enters Ace Chemicals and tells Joker that the Batman Family is taking the city back. He goes on to say that he is ready for whatever Joker can throw at him.
Joker talks over an intercom and says that he saved one last dead body he dug up from Wayne Manor’s backyard for his grand finale. Alfred Pennyworth’s Jokerized body suddenly appears and snaps its own neck while saying “MMMMASTER BRRRRUUCE” much to Batman’s shock.
Joker appears in the chrome Batman suit that was found at Wayne Manor with the Joker smile on the symbol. Joker points a gun at the back of Batman’s head while saying “See Bruce. I promised…..You’re not ready for this at all.” End of issue.
The Good: With everything that has gone on in “Joker War,” both within the Batman series and in its tie-ins, Batman #99 acts as the surgery the story needed to bring all these running sub-plots together. That both helps and hurts the story in Batman #99 as half of what we see play out has been told in other comic books. While that does affect the overall impact of Batman #99’s effectiveness there is still much to enjoy.
First, once again James Tynion continues to present Joker as the absolute representation of chaos. Joker’s story about what his realization about representing the chaos that he believes that Gotham City always wants to be in is fitting for the character. His reasoning for thinking this way now also fits in to how Batman has evolved over the years as he has gotten close to reaching his own goals to make the city safe.
Joker’s story made the whole drive to Ace Chemical was incredibly chilling as Tynion’s dialogue was enhanced by how Jorge Jimenez drew all the chaos in Gotham City. Tynion and Jimenez complimented each other well in this sequence. That continued with the scene inside Ace Chemicals with Joker killing all his followers after completing their jobs while he talked with Punchline on the phone. Both the dialogue and how Joker killed everyone got over how we have reached the endgame for “Joker War.”
This scene also helped keep Punchline in the mix as we see her face the first real defeat she has had since being introduced. Tynion got across how Punchline was booth pissed off and now questioning what she can do. Batman clearly struck some fear in her with how she questioned if Joker was worried that Batman had a few hours to prepare for the final confrontation. This adds further interest on where Punchline will end up when all is said and done when “Joker War” is over.
The chaos we see in Gotham City added to how getting the Batman Family back together as a united front was a visual that brought hope. Batman apologizing for not bringing them together earlier and letting Joker take over was a big step forward for him. We’ve see how since Batman #50 that Bruce Wayne has been pushing everyone in his life away in one way or another. Alfred Pennyworth’s death just furthered how Bruce has made him even more of a solo act.
Which does show that all the events in “Joker War” has been one big wake up call for Bruce that he can’t do things alone anymore. Especially with his new vision of rebuilding Gotham City from its infrastructure, Bruce needs the Batman Family now more than ever. Putting the trust that Batgirl and Nightwing can lead the Batman Family to take back Gotham City is an example of that growth.
The reunion with Dick Grayson was also a nice touch. This is a reunion that has been long overdue. And Tynion was able to make Dick Grayson’s return a big deal by having Batman be the one to give him his Nightwing costume back. While it does not completely repair things between them it does show that their bond has been reforged. It also added to how a united Batman Family will be able to save Gotham City.
Harley Quinn’s inclusion in this Batman Family scene and later her solo scene with Batman emphasized how this is a story that could bring the Joker and Batman rivalry to an end. Harley Quinn bringing up how “Joker War” has just been another example of why Joker must be put down for good is a strong argument. We’ve seen with other stories like “Killing Joke” and “Death In The Family,” that Joker will never stop coming back. The character will always return to cause more chaos and destruction as he destroys more people’s lives.
Positioning Harley Quinn in this way helped to once again show how she has broken free from Joker and is full on an anti-hero path. Unlike Batman she is willing to be the one to pull the trigger on ending things with Joker. It was a powerful speech emphasized the growth Harley Quinn has gone through over the last decade.
This was another scene that Tynion and Jimenez worked well together to knock out of the park. Even though we see how Batman was resolute in not breaking with his code about killing he did understand where Harley Quinn was coming from. We see various instances in this conversation that Batman is both shocked and believes in what Harley Quinn is saying. Which is further emphasized by how rather than going with Harley Quinn’s request to knock her out or risk her going rogue and killing Joker. Batman walking away is him leaving the door open as he knows things can go south with this final confrontation with Joker and he places some trust Harley Quinn to back him up if that happens.
The set-up for the final showdown was also well done with the appearance of the Jokerized zombie version of Alfred Pennyworth reminding us how personal this “Joker War” is. Joker knowing Batman’s true identity of Bruce Wayne has given him all the tools he needs to fight the Dark Knight. It made how Joker was able to get behind Batman to close out the issue have greater impact as it was all psychological.
As mentioned before, Jimenez’s artwork has grown better with each passing issue of “Joker War.” Batman #99 may very well be his best issue yet as he gets across all the chaos that Joker has brought to Gotham City. The double page spread during Joker’s speech is a fantastic example of that. He also does a great job capturing the raw emotion Harley Quinn feels during her own speech to Batman about why they needed to put an end to Joker there and now.
The Bad: For all the things to like about Batman #99, this was possibly the weakest chapter of “Joker War” thus far. The biggest reason for that is that Tynion uses Batman #99 to patch together all the sub-plots from other tie-in issues into his work in the main “Joker War” story. The problem with that approach for the penultimate chapter of a major event is that it feels like we are missing a big chunk of the story. That includes plot elements that Tynion introduced in earlier issues that he did not resolve or address during the main “Joker War” story.
The whole sub-plot with the Wayne Enterprise takeover is an example of that. Tynion only address that in a brief aside that last one panel even though Wayne Enterprise’s takeover and Lucius Fox kidnapping kicked off “Joker War.” That was set up as a major plotline that should have been given a greater spotlight as we come close to the end of this event. Instead it is just treated as an unimportant side story that you’ll need to shell out extra money for to read about.
The same goes for the Nightwing sub-plot in Batman #99. This was for sure a major moment in “Joker War” that was cool for fans who have waited for Dick Grayson’s return. Unfortunately the moment does not work if you aren’t reading the Nightwing series. Without the context of the whole Ric Grayson saga the importance of Batman giving Dick Grayson his Nightwing costume back will not work. That does not fall just on Tynion’s shoulders but a general problem Batman staff has had with how they’ve developed the Ric Grayson story as a whole.
To a lesser degree, the Catwoman sub-plot also suffered from a similar problem but for a different reason. Tynion has been sprinkling in Catwoman’s role in “Joker War” for the last few chapters. Going with the approach of only having one or two pages dedicated to Catwoman’s sub-plot has made it come across as unimportant. We haven’t gotten a full development of what Catwoman is doing.
The same goes for the Underbroker as sub-boss for the “Joker War.” The character has basically been non-existent since Batman #95. Up until now the character was completely forgettable. That would’ve been different if we had some more appearances of the character and how he was working for Joker.
All of this are examples that Tynion was juggling way too many sub-plots in “Joker War.” Which is not even bringing up the Clownhunter character that has been making an appearance in just about every issue of this event. The story has gotten out of control in terms of how much needs to be addressed during each chapter. Maybe that will be fixed with Batman #100, as it’ll have more than double the page count to wrap things up. But in general Batman #99 just emphasized that there may have been a need for “Joker War” to have one or two sub-plots trimmed so it could have a tighter story.
Overall: In terms of bringing all of the sub-plots in this series and tie-in comics together Batman #99 gets the job done. James Tynion and Jorge Jimenez bring everything together to provide a strong set-up for the final chapter of “Joker War.” Unfortunately by bringing together so many different sub-plots together does show that “Joker War” may have had way to many things going on for its own good. Hopefully Batman #100’s increased page count will help in fixing these story problems and wrap up “Joker War” in a satisfying way.
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