Batman: Joker War Retrospective

Batman Joker War Retrospective

James Tynion did not waste anytime in creating a big event style story to begin his run on Batman. “Joker War” matched the level of “City of Bane” and “Court of Owls” with the scope that it had. Every part of the Batman franchise was touched. And when all was said and done the Batman franchise is left in a completely different place from when Tynion started “Joker War.” With such a big storyline coming to an end it is time to look back at what made “Joker War” such an explosive story that captured Batman fans attention.

Now before getting into the full scope of the event, if you want to check out what happened in “Joker War” you can check out all of our reviews of the 6-part event at the following links:

Batman #95: “Joker War” Part 1

Batman #96: “Joker War” Part 2

Batman #97: “Joker War” Part 3

Batman #98: “Joker War” Part 4

Batman #99: “Joker War” Part 5

Batman #100: “Joker War” Part 6

INTENSIFYING BATMAN AND JOKER RIVALRY

It was a bold move by James Tynion to start his run by having Joker target the entire Batman Family and aiming to learn all of their secret identities. That was a big shift for how we normally see Joker’s fight with the Batman Family go down since he has always shown to not care about their secret identities, Jason Todd being the exception. We’ve also seen various hints over the years, including in Scott Snyder’s “Endgame” storyline, that Joker knows who Batman is and just does not care about that. It’s all a game to him to show Batman his reign of chaos is superior to the Dark Knight’s order.

So having “Joker War” center around Joker using the knowledge that Bruce Wayne is Batman took things to another level. Joker literally stole all of Bruce Wayne’s money, resources, and tools that were used to be Batman and took over Gotham City and created his own chaotic wonderland. It spoke to Joker’s own madness that the visual of what Gotham City became under his control came across as chaotic. It seemed that Joker was just reveling in Gotham City burning down.

All of this made how Batman needed to step up to save Gotham City from Joker an even more intriguing to watch. Because unlike other battles Batman had none of his resources to rely on. Batman needed to grow out of that and find what his greatest strengths are to overcome everything Joker threw at him.

JOKER WAR EXPLODED WITH ONE TOO MANY PLOTLINES

Batman #99

Harley Quinn explains why Batman needs to put an end to things with Joker in Batman #99. Click for full page view.

For as much as there was to enjoy about “Joker War” one of the things that stuck out most now that there’s been time for the dust to settle is how much went on. At its core this was another chapter in the ongoing war between Batman and Joker. From that we had multiple storylines taking place at the same time. There was the rise of new characters like Punchline and Clownhunter, the return of Dick Grayson, Bruce Wayne dealing with Alfred Pennyworth’s death, and many more stories going on at the same time. As “Joker War” progressed it became clear that Tynion wouldn’t be able to dedicate enough time to all these storylines and do them justice.

The biggest example of that was the role that Catwoman ended up playing in how “Joker War” turned out. Before “Joker War” began Tynion separated Catwoman from Batman due to what went on in the “Their Dark Designs” arc that acted as set-up for this event. Through that Tynion went on to establish that Catwoman would partner with Penguin and Riddler to steal back the Wayne Family fortune that Joker stole. The problem with that is we only saw a few pages total of this particular storyline over the course of the six parts. Having so little time spent on a crucial plot point that turned out to help in Joker and Punchline’s downfall was a major disappointment.

Now to Tynion’s credit the majority of key plot points that he did tackle throughout “Joker War” were well handled. From the reunion of the Batman Family to how Joker and Punchline were developed, there were a lot of great things that we saw develop in “Joker War.” The greatness of what we did see take place just made the less developed parts of the story standout more as a weak link.

BRUCE WAYNE DEALS WITH HIS EMOTIONAL BAGGAGE

Towards the end of Tom King’s run there was a massive development that shook the Batman franchise during “City of Bane.” That developments was the death of Alfred Pennyworth at the hands of Bane. Rather than finding a way to undo that development Tynion embraced what life would be like if Alfred was not around anymore. Not only that but Tynion explored how the guilt over not being able to save Alfred impacted Bruce.

At first Bruce tried to channel that guilt by becoming the Batman that Alfred thought he should be and helping to lead Gotham City to become something new. As we saw with how easily Joker and Punchline took over this created a weakness in Bruce as his vision clouded by what he thought he should be. Throughout “Joker War” we were constantly shown how this all made Batman an easier target to be overwhelmed by everything Joker threw at him.

This made the dream sequence we saw take place in Batman #98 have an even bigger impact on not just how “Joker War” turned out but the direction the Batman franchise will take. As the dream Alfred told him, Bruce already beat himself enough over his death so it was time to move on. Alfred’s words about how Bruce should open himself open for his family to have his back was a big development. With these words Bruce was finally able to accept Alfred’s death and move forward with his life

BATMAN FAMILY REUNITED

Batman #100

Barbara Gordon returns as Oracle to lead the Batman Family in saving Gotham City from Joker’s control in Batman #100. Click for full page view.

Ever since Scott Snyder’s “Death Of The Family” storyline in the early years of New 52 the Batman Family have been on shaky grounds. While they have come together at various points to fight together in different combinations the reunion never lasted long. To be fair to all of the Batman Family members they all have been through a lot of changes over the last decade that made it tough for them to fight as a united family.

But now for the first time in a long time that is something that has been set-up to change after “Joker War.” That change is all thanks to Batman finally stepping up and owning up to how he has been a major cause for the lack of unity within the family. Batman admitting that out loud with everyone around him was a massive step forward. Hearing those words made the reunion feel like a permanent thing that will be the new status quo for everyone.

Tynion continued to establish the newly united Batman Family as a powerful force by having them take back Gotham City while Batman directly dealt with Joker. Seeing the entire Batman Family in action with Barbara Gordon back as Oracle leading them was very satisfying to see. There was a sense of completion to this. And now the door is open to wealth of potential to create stories around the Batman Family that could usher a new era for all of them.

PUNCHLINE LEADS NEW CHARACTER INTRODUCTION

“Joker War” was not just about the established characters in the Batman franchise. Tynion used this major storyline to introduce the world to several new characters with the future in mind. The one that got the most attention was Joker’s new partner in crime, Punchline. As we’ve seen with how quickly her popularity grew since being introduced Punchline is a strong candidate for DC Comics breakout character of 2020. “Joker War” helped to grow that popularity as we saw how she is a partner that brings something different to the table from when Harley Quinn had her role. As the story concluded things were set up for Punchline to have a bright or, more appropriate to her, dark future.

On another note “Joker War” also introduced us to the newest young Gotham City vigilante in the form of Clownhunter. Tynion quickly established Clownhunter as having an intense hatred for Joker right out of the gate. That hatred turned him into someone that took no prisoners and used deadly force to protect his neighborhood during “Joker War.” In many ways, Clownhunter will remind fans of Jason Todd. But unlike previous Robins and protégé’s Batman decided to not recruit Clownhunter to be mentored by him. Instead Batman tried to provide help in another way by giving Clownhunter resources to help adjust to his current life. That is something Clownhunter likely won’t do which positions him to be character that will go down a different route from previous Robins and Batman Family members.

FINAL THOUGHTS

When all was said and done “Joker War” was a fun reading experience. It was not perfect but it did a lot to create an exciting new chapter in the rivalry between Batman and Joker. In the process James Tynion and Jorge Jimenez created a story that did not let go of fans attention from the moment “Joker War” started.

In the direct aftermath Gotham City has most certainly been left in ruin. But as the fires die down the Batman Family are now in position to help Gotham City heal and become better than ever. That could mean that we are headed in a Neo Gotham City direction from Batman Beyond. Whatever the case may be Tynion and Jimenez certainly set up a future that has a wealth of potential for intriguing stories to be told involving the Batman Family.


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