Batman: The Joker War Zone features five separate tales showing moments of what’s going on in Gotham during the larger events of the Joker War going on over in Batman and associated Bat titles. The idea is to give a feel for what the other heroes and villains of Gotham are doing during the Joker’s mad reign.
I’ll go through each story briefly, rate it, then give you guys my general feelings at the end and an overall rating. So let’s dive right in!
A Serious House
The story here revolves around the Joker threatening, grandstanding, and pontificating to Bane in Arkham Asylum. Joker’s there because he’s upset with Bane over a perceived perfect joke Bane spoiled. That joke was in how he should have handled running Gotham, and killing Alfred. Part of this I get, because from Joker’s point of view there were missed opportunities, but also Bane wasn’t in control then, so being upset with him is almost moot to me.
The whole conversation really doesn’t do much for me. A lot of it is the same as what we’ve seen from Tynion before regarding Alfred’s relationship with Bruce, just being said by Joker this time. Beyond that, there’s not much here other than Tynion building some bad blood between Bane and Joker, so they can go head to head sometime next year and to me that’s not really a story.
March’s art here is a good fit for this setting. He draws a good Joker and Bane, with both of them looking wonderfully creepy, especially in Arkham. March also does a great job of showing Joker get angrier and angrier at the fact that Bane ruined an excellent joke, and his facial expressions are really fantastic. As for Bane himself, it’s kind of wild to see him with some hair, but it’s a good indication of just how long he’s been in Arkham, and I appreciate the detail being added in.
This short genuinely surprised me. It’s another that feels a bit like a set up for future things to come, but it does quite a bit more than just that. It actually shows the Fox family dealing with the state of Gotham and what happened to Lucius all while they try to figure out what to do with Bruce’s money Catwoman entrusted them with.
They spend most of the time discussing how to spend the money Catwoman gave them, with many of the suggestions being something different from what she asked them to do with it. Lucius is most passionate about using it themselves to try and change Gotham, his experiences with Punchline have changed him in more than just his appearance, and he’s tired of how things always stay the same in Gotham, especially regarding the heroes and villains.
Coipel’s art paired with Hollingsworth’s colors work well for this story. Something I enjoyed is how Coipel chooses to keep Lucius’ face hidden deep in his hood for much of his conversation with his family, and it adds to the gravity of what he’s saying, as well as adds some tension about what’s under the hood, and how stable he is right then.
Overall I think the ideas this story plays with like, questioning the masks, the state of the city, what they can do with all this money, are some interesting ones and I hope Ridley brings them back in his upcoming mini-series featuring the Foxes.
I will admit, I was looking forward to seeing Spoiler and Orphan in War Zone. It was one of the only things I was actively excited about, because I really do love both of them, so I’m pleased to say this was my favorite out of all the stories featured in this book.
This story features Spoiler and Orphan teaming up to steal and set up a Batsignal because they believe Gotham needs that shining light of hope in the middle of the chaos and destruction going on during Joker’s takeover. The two of them face off against the Hench Master and a bunch of trainee henchmen, and honestly it’s a ton of fun. Out of everything in this collection, this story will make you smile. And in the middle of something like the Joker War, it points out just how much that smile, hope, and the symbol is needed.
The art also fits the tone. Hi-Fi’s colors are the first thing you notice reading this because they’re bright and colorful compared to the previous two stories, and that pallet fits the themes played with here. Lafuente’s pencils fit the brighter, lighter tone too, as the art is more cartoonish, and bouncy. Generally it’s as much fun to look at as it is to read.
Ashes of Eden
This story follows Poison Ivy as she discovers what’s happened to Eden after Harley and Batman left it. Clowns have taken up a spot down there, and irritated, Ivy quickly dispatches all but one who arrived late. The rest of the story follows her as she talks out what she’s going to do next with the remaining clown, and eventually decides on both a change of outfit and name.
The art is done by Braga, who gives us a number of really pretty moments with Ivy. I love the way she draws Ivy’s expressions through the story. Her action moments are good, and while I like her expressions, there’s also a few moments when the story slows down that feel a bit wonky. But honestly, Ivy’s outfit in the end makes up for all that. It’s pretty cool.
Generally though, this one feels less like a story and more like a set up for more to happen with Ivy in the future. It’s fine, but there’s not a lot of substance here for me to hang on to.
The final tale in this anthology is focused on Clown Hunter. Coming into this I hadn’t really seen enough of the kid to form a real opinion, and after reading it I feel like he’s a lot of edge with little more to really define him. I think some of that comes from this story focusing on a lot of characters that aren’t him. It opens on Joker picking a new crew to go take him out, then follows them as they fall one by one into his traps. When Clown Hunter does talk, it doesn’t read like anything new or fresh. Time will tell if he grows on me or not, but this story felt more like a scene with him, instead of a tale about him.
Stokoe’s art though is just really phenomenal. More than anything I feel like it fits the feeling of what I picture Gotham to be like in the middle of a Joker takeover. The color pallet is muted but also full of different and unexpected colors, and makes the city feel both dark and unrestrained. The amount of detail that goes into each panel is also just really great, it feels like your down in the narrows, with tall buildings and tight alleys.
- You wanted to see snapshots of Gotham during Joker War
- Lots of teasers for the future don’t bother you
- There’s a ton of great art in here to enjoy
Personally, this book didn’t move me greatly in one way or the other. There’s some fun stories in here but overall much of it feels like set up for the future rather than individual tales of Gotham. I don’t mind some set up, but two of these stories don’t feel like they have much to say beyond “see you next year” and in an anthology that only has five tales that’s quite a bit of the content. I do think it has some enjoyable moments, especially the Batgirls team up, and Ridley’s story. Generally though, I think it comes down to whether or not you want some teasers for next year, and another dose of Joker War craziness. If that’s a yes, pick it up, if not this might not be the title for you.
Total Score: 6/10
DISCLAIMER: DC Comics provided Batman News with a copy of this comic for the purpose of this review.