Batman #99 is supposed to be the penultimate issue of “Joker War,” but there’s nothing worthy of that classification. All this issue really is, are bloated exposition, villainous grandstanding, nonsensical speeches, and more regurgitation.

The Story

Oh boy, where do I start? Half of this issue is nothing more than the Joker having some ridiculous conversation with his driver, preaching about Gotham, his history with Batman, and the state of things. When we’re one issue away from the conclusion, this is not what I want, especially when I’ve already been complaining about the lack of an actual plot for something that’s supposed to be an event. It’s awful. From the Jokerized limo, to the cheesy dialogue, and the God-awful lettering for Joker’s “I love it.” I knew I was going to hate this issue.

As I said, half of this book is of the Joker preaching. We literally get eight pages of Joker rambling about Batman, Gotham, what the city used to be, what the city is now, and how Batman corrupted it. Is the dialogue awful? No, not particularly, but the entire concept is pretty bad. I mean, as far as the plot is concerned, we should be racing towards the climax of this story, and what do we get instead? This nonsense. The biggest problem here isn’t the speech itself and what is said, but that this screams James Tynion instead of Joker. There is no distinct voice here other than Tynion’s, and I’m tired of reading Tynion’s voice in Batman. He just tries too damn hard to be poetic and eloquent, and it always comes off as trying too hard. Think of the characters you’re writing for. Find their voice. Your work will improve ten-fold.

The only storytelling that actually takes place during these pages is from Jorge Jimenez who provides some incredible backdrops of the chaos occurring in Gotham. We get to see the city on fire, the clowns vandalizing and tagging buildings, harassing citizens, and even Clownhunter throwing a clown off of a building. It’s honestly great work artistically, especially the double splash page.

But in true Tynion fashion, this serves no purpose other than to be “cool.” Gotham has been in this state for practically a week in the story itself. As for us reading the story, it’s been months and we never saw an actual ramp-up to this, it just became the status quo. It’s one of the main aspects that people complained about with “City of Bane.” Writers keep skipping the actual meat of the story. They keep jumping past critical set-up.

Just imagine how much better this would be of Joker were in the background completely unseen by the general public in the first issue of “Joker War,” and there were barely any clowns on the street. Imagine how much cooler Punchline could be if she, at Joker’s command, pushed the idea that Bruce Wayne is corrupt to the public, called for action and unrest from citizens, and then we saw the state of Gotham grow direr with each chapter until reaching this point. This is what should happen in a story. We should see actual development. Instead, we were introduced to this at the very beginning with no clear explanation as to how the city fell apart to this degree so quickly. It also makes for a stagnant story because Tynion didn’t give himself anywhere to go.

And as I mentioned before, where is everyone else? Thanks to Tomasi, we finally got an ok-ish issue showing Batwoman and the GCPD doing something. I’m not sure why the GCPD felt they couldn’t initially take action, and now they feel they can. I mean, clowns were blowing stuff up and terrorizing the city in the first chapter, so what gives? And then there’s the Bat-family? Why haven’t they intervened? Well, they’ve had their own issues with the Joker in their own titles – none of them, by the way, are good stories, nor do they make sense in terms of continuity. There’s an abundance of editor’s notes to “Find out how ____ did ____ over in ____.” Just don’t. Spare yourself.

Anyway, there’s a line thrown in here to ultimately explain why the family didn’t get involved, and I hate it. Honestly, other than seeing the Bat-family together, I hate this entire page. Once again, we hear Tynion’s voice instead of Batman’s (“He wants me too afraid to put you in the field…”), and then we get the nonsensical reveal that the family hasn’t helped Gotham because Batman hasn’t told them to. What!?!? Since when did the Bat-family wait for Batman to say it’s ok to help fight crime? Do we really think they’d be sitting on the sidelines like a bunch of dopes like, “Well… Bruce didn’t say we could join in, so I guess we have to watch the city burn.” I mean, come on! If you think this is good writing, I’ve got a list of books that will prove otherwise. Hell, even Tom King did better than this in his run. At least he had Batman take all of his allies out to remove them from danger. That was stupid too, but it was better than this.

The scene is honestly made a little worse by Harley being there. I get why she’s there. She’s saved Batman twice, but if you’re going to have this reconnecting moment, I wish it would have been written better and excluded her. But, I’m ok with Harley shifting into more of an anti-hero role, so I’m not necessarily upset with that. The character needs to grow a little for the next decade, and Sean Gordon Murphy has the right idea in his universe.

Anyway, there’s more terrible dialogue about Batman asking too much of the other heroes, questions about what Batman will do, and Dick inquiring about the Wayne fortune. It’s all over-written garbage because Tynion is incapable of showing instead of telling. Oh, and then Batman apparently farts and produces a briefcase with Dick’s Nightwing costume. It would be awesome if it weren’t so ridiculous.

The only good line in this scene is Harley calling Tim “Duckboy,” but he’s not in his Drake costume or even going by Drake, so it’s just a zing at the stupidity that Bendis tried to make happen… And I applaud Tynion for throwing that zing out there. Good for you, sir! Somebody needed to do it!

Moving on, Catwoman has Penguin and Riddler, and they apparently have things going on over in Catwoman. I honestly don’t know what’s happening over there, I haven’t read it. Hopefully, it’s good, but I’m not holding my breath. Meanwhile, the Joker is having Punchline push hordes of people into theaters to watch a movie, and then kill them. Really? Really? This is <beep>ing stupid.

To wrap up the issue, Batman goes to Ace Chemicals to confront the Joker, and this is where the first semi-interesting scene takes place. Harley meets him there and basically draws a line in the sand. She makes the case that Batman needs to kill the Joker. For her. For Gotham. For the innocent people the Joker has slaughtered over the years… And she’s right. He needs to. But he won’t. So, she goes a step further and actually says she’ll be the one to do it, and he still says no. And I get it. The morally correct path is for Batman to protect life – and I believe that is 100% in line with Batman’s character… But I really hope Harley comes around in the next issue and just pops Joker off before Batman can stop her.

Batman ultimately puts Harley in her place, then goes into ACE Chemicals, and guess who’s there?

Spoiler

Alfred! Who didn’t see this coming? Really? You didn’t? You… You honestly didn’t see this coming? Really? Like, Tynion keeps falling back on the same schtick. Bruce hears Alfred in his head. Bruce hallucinates Alfred while wigging out on some Poison Ivy mushroom tea. The next logical step is to have zombie Alfred considering there have been two arcs packed full of reanimated corpses. Did you really not see this coming?

Yeah, I’m not a fan. I think it’s cheap, lazy storytelling, and because of what Tynion has done in previous issues, I felt it was too obvious. In fact, Tynion is so obvious at this point that the moment my predictions were confirmed that zombie Alfred would show up, I immediately thought, “And he’s probably going to snap his neck again.” And then, a panel later, guess what? He has Alfred snap his neck.

I feel like a child is writing this.

The book ends with Batman and Joker meeting, but things are different now. Why? Because the Joker is wearing the new, proto-type Batsuite that was featured earlier in the run. Again, I ask. Who didn’t see this coming? Not only does Tynion blatantly telegraph his moves, but he’s incapable of making any original ideas, and it shows. This whole story has conceptually been a repeat of Tom King’s “City of Bane,” and then moments of the story have either been lifts of other stories, or rehashes of what he’s already done.

Oh, and if you looked at Joker in the Batsuit and thought, “Why do I feel like I’ve seen this before?”

Well…

I hate to tell you…

But it was already done recently, and was quite similar…

 

The Art

The art for this issue is easily the best it’s been for the entire story! Jorge Jimenez is already an incredibly artist, but he really outdid himself here. There is just page after page and panel after panel of incredible work. He took an awful script and managed to make something quite beautiful and spectacular out of it. Same with Tomeu Morey! He get’s to play with so many different tones and colors, and they’re all just incredible.

Honestly, when I see art as good as this, I wish I could just grade the art as it’s own merit. If I could, this would easily be a ten out of ten. I cannot stress how incredible this work is, so rather than try to give it justice, why don’t you just take a look at some of the images in the spoiler tag. For what it’s worth, I expect to see these images reused for marketing, books, or prints in the coming years, and they’ve earned that remembrance because they are that iconic.

Spoiler

Recommended if:

The only thing worth your time and attention is the art. Forget the rest.

Overall

At this point, I generally don’t see the attraction here. This isn’t a good story because there isn’t much of a story being told. Batman #99 is the fifth chapter of “Joker War” and based on the little plot progression we’ve gotten, this could have easily taken place within two issues. The entire story has been one bloated joke, serving only one purpose – the opportunity for James Tynion to stroke his own ego with his vastly over-written scripts.

This book is not good, and it’s shameful to pretend that it is. What happened to quality comics? Where have they gone? There’s a stigma from outsiders that comic books are childish nonsense that is poorly written, and for decades comic fans have been able to provide examples that prove this theory wrong. Now… Now it just feels like the industry is owning that stigma of “childish nonsense” and praising it as something spectacular. I promise you, if anyone who has never read comics before watches a Batman film, then reads this… I doubt they’ll come back for more.

SCORE: 4.5/10