The third chapter of “Joker War” hit shelves today, and I’ve decided that this is nothing more than a directionless story where Batman flops around the city before passing out and waking up with Harley. Maybe the universe is trying to tell you something, Bats! *Nudge, nudge* I hear she’s single… *Wink, wink. Nudge, nudge.*

Where do I start?… Well, I guess I’ll say that I didn’t dislike this issue as much as the previous issues, but there’s isn’t really much that happens, so, you know… There’s not much to talk about either. But even then, this story seriously lacks clarity and direction, and if Tynion isn’t delivering this in his scripts, then the editors need to be catching it so these opportunities can be corrected before being published. More on this a little later.

Batman #97 kicks off with Punchline collecting barrels of toxin that’s to be taken to ACE Chemicals. Why are they taking them to ACE Chemicals? Who knows? It is probably a throw-away line that was included just because some readers somewhere are going to hear “ACE Chemicals” and blow their load. (That analogy is considered PG 13, right?) The Underbroker has used various methods to source these barrels, and with money being a non-issue since the Joker stole the Wayne fortune, they’ve accomplished the task relatively easy.

During this same scene, Punchline also learns about Clownhunter from one of the lackey clowns. So far, we’ve only seen one scene with Clownhunter, and he bludgeoned a clown to save a mother and her children. It was quite a depressing scene due to the dialogue – my heart breaks anytime a kid says they’re not ok – but that’s all we learned about the kid. Here, we get to see that he manages to confront the clowns that were in the Batmobile from the first issue of Joker War. He causes them to wreck the Batmobile, disables it, and decides to kill the clowns by pouring gasoline through a hole in the windshield, then setting them on fire.

I want to be very clear… This is a cool, but totally sadistic moment. I will admit that I’m still intrigued by Clownhunter though. I think he will end up being the best character in “Joker War,” but I can’t speak to his longevity as a character. That being said, there is something inherently interesting about him, and I feel that it stems from a general sense of hopelessness that exists in youth today.

Not to create a political conversation, but there are plenty of teenagers and college-aged students I know that feel that the odds are stacked against them. Higher education is expensive. Good paying jobs aren’t necessarily there once they finish school. Racial tensions are high. There’s civil unrest all over the country. We’re in the middle of a pandemic. The economy is collapsing before our eyes. We are in a climate crisis. And people, in general, are being less gracious because of the stress of everything. It’s almost as if I see a number of them think, “What’s the point?” and give up to a degree. They don’t care anymore because they feel it doesn’t matter… And that’s the general sense I get from Clownhunter. This kid doesn’t care, and he’s abandoned whatever morals he was potentially raised with because he feels it doesn’t matter.

As for Batman, he fights the corpses that were revealed in the last issue. I don’t find this exciting or entertaining. There isn’t really much weight or depth to it, and it’s now clear that they are only here to provide a mob of antagonists for Batman to punch. *Yawn*

There’s an entire schtick during the fight where Batman starts tripping on Punchline’s toxin again, so he sees all the corpses as Joker, continues to hear Alfred (which started in the last issue), and decides to blindfold himself so he can block out the “noise” and concentrate on the fight. Mind you, the blindfolding takes place after Batman sets off an explosive, so the entire theater is on fire and burning around him. Cool, right? Totally badass, huh? Yeah… I can’t help but feel the entire idea is unwarranted, over-the-top, and so desperate to be cool, that it isn’t. And don’t get me wrong, I love when I see heroes do something like this, but it’s usually because they’re actually handicapped somehow, and the point of the moment is that they don’t need to rely on their vision, but use other sense to accomplish the job. Well, Batman wouldn’t be able to rely on his other senses, because all he would hear would be the fire and building burning around him, and all he’d smell is smoke.

Batman ultimately releases an EMP which not only stops him from hearing Alfred – which doesn’t make sense considering Bruce’s hallucinations are causing him to hear Alfred, not an actual earpiece – and stops all of the corpses. Apparently, nanites control the corpses… Which kind of contradicts everything that’s built up to this reveal, but also makes the gas they excrete rather pointless.

Batman eventually escapes the theater, before passing out on the street, where Harley discovers him. As I said in my intro, it appears as though all Batman does in this story is flop around and pass out. Needless to say, I rolled my eyes. Anyway, Harley helps Batman and takes him to her own cave that Ivy turned into a paradise, and gives Batman an herbal drink that will flush the toxins from his body so he can face the Joker. She warns him that the herbs are going to make him trip out (Hasn’t he already been tripping out?), before they help. And then, the issue ends with a “shocking teaser” for the next issue.

Spoiler

What is this shocking teaser? Bruce hallucinates Alfred… So… There is nothing shocking about it. This has essentially been going on for a few issues now, he just sees him instead of hearing him… I’m not impressed.

There’s also a bit with Joker looking all sexy by the pool before the issue ends. I’d do that “Hey you’re sexy” whistle, but, fun fact, I can’t whistle. That’s ok though, I hate the idea of a sexy Joker anyway. The main point of the scene is so that Punchline can reveal Clownhunter to Joker, and Joker can claim it’s time to take out Harley. I know many people are excited for this rematch. I’m not. I’d honestly much rather see Clownhunter and Punchline go toe-to-toe. Also, aside from her design, Punchline is an awful character because there is literally no depth to her… Like… At all. And… She’s annoying as $%@#.

Based on this assessment, you might be wondering why I dislike this story so much. It sounds alright based on what’s above, right? Well, there are a number of things going against it, and it is clear Tynion is just throwing ideas against the wall to see what sticks. Remember when I said the story lacks clarity and direction? Yeah well, here’s what I mean:

Does anyone know what the Joker’s actual plan is? No. Ok, yeah, he wants to gas the city… But why? There’s apparently an endgame to what he’s doing – that much has been stated – but it isn’t clear what that endgame is. Does he want to control the city? He already controls it. Is his endgame is to kill Batman? I mean, they’ve said that, but there have also been multiple instances where he says he doesn’t want to kill Batman. So, seriously, what’s the point of all of this?

And why isn’t Joker revealing Batman’s identity? If he really is looking to destroy Batman, why not destroy the man himself, Bruce Wayne? The only reason he never revealed Batman’s identity before this was because he didn’t want to lose the “relationship” that they have. Based on that, there’s no reason not to tell the world. And he’s already ruined Bruce Wayne’s reputation, so why not come out with the knowledge that he’s Batman? And yes, I’m well aware that people wouldn’t believe Joker if he revealed it, but some people would, and those people would never stop believing that. There’s no logic in any of this – which I also get is the Joker’s M.O., but he tends to have his own logic for his actions and Tynion keeps stressing that this time is different and that Joker is going against his trend… Which I’m all for, but you need to provide the “what” and the “why” otherwise you’re just talking out your ass. Hello hot air!

Speaking of hot air, why is Clownhunter the only character trying to make a difference while the entire city is on fire? Where’s the Bat-family? Where are the GCPD? Where’s Catwoman? The solicitation promised a plot with Catwoman recruiting her own forces. It’s not in this book. Where are the other citizens who would fight for their city? Just like “City of Bane,” justifiable reasons aren’t there. Hell, Tynion hasn’t even given a reason at all. I mean, he tried to set-up a realistic situation, financially, with to Joker acquiring the funds and by making the argument that the government/ police legally can’t do anything. My problem is that there are so many illegal actions taking place at this point, not involving money, that the police and government would have every right to step in.

None of it adds up. None of it is well thought or planned. None of the characters have a distinct voice. And, just like with his Detective Comics run, Tynion has made Batman completely incapable and reliant on others – specifically Harley Quinn and a teenager who has decided to take it upon himself to murder clowns. There isn’t a story here. There’s just a series of plot devices, shock value, and repetition because Tynion can’t seem to craft a cohesive, original Batman narrative.

Also, Batman still has a severed artery in his leg.

You know what I’m going to say, right?

Work. Your. Stories.

The Art

Jorge Jimenez continues to cover art duties, and his work is alright here. Don’t get me wrong, I love Jorge’s work in general, but I don’t think he’s been given much to work with here. I feel Jimenez’s best work shines through when he’s able to highlight and play with the emotions of the characters, and every character in this story is paper-thin. The only exception is Clownhunter, and Jimenez is a big reason his scenes work so well. Just look at the body language he creates for the character. But everything else is just generic because the script is rather generic.

While I think his art is visually pleasing, there are also moments where pages and panels look messy and rushed – specifically the theater fight where Batman is tripping out and thinks the corpses are all Joker. I honestly think it’s a shame. Jorge Jimenez is one of the best artists in the industry right now, and he has endless potential while on the biggest book there is… And he’s getting a big, steaming pile of you-know-what to work with.

Recommended if:

  • Honestly, come for Clownhunter. That’s the only saving grace here.
  • Batman faints again.
  • Harley helps Batman again.
  • Joker uses corpses again.
  • Gotham is on fire again.
  • Punchline is annoying again.
  • There’s nothing original. This entire issue is “been there, done that.”
  • Where are the editors in all of this?
  • Is Tynion outlining or reading his own work?
  • Does anybody know how to provide constructive criticism anymore?
  • Can I get paid to just smile, tell people their work is the best thing ever, and remind them of their deadlines?

 

Overall

Batman #97 isn’t as egregious as previous issues, but there’s little plot progression or depth/substance, so it fails in that respect. We’re also reaching a point where you have to look at “Joker War” as a sum of its parts, and things just aren’t adding up, paying off, or connecting really. I fully understand that people have different tastes in books or stories, and I can usually understand why people like certain things even if they don’t jive with me… But “Joker War” leaves me befuddled. I don’t understand what people like about it or why. Even when I hear explanations, it’s usually something like, “Dude! Punchline! Joker’s controlling the city! It’s awesome!” And I’m left asking, “Yeah… But what is actually awesome about it?” And I rarely get a response aside from, “I don’t know. I just like it.” And, again, that’s fine and fair, I’m just trying to understand what it is, specifically, people are enjoying because I’m completely missing it.

SCORE: 4/10