You know how I’ve spent most of “Joker War” complaining about nothing happening? Well, when you get down to it, that remains true even in this final issue.
If you’re looking for a bloated story with absolutely no stakes, no direction, and no actual plot or payoff, then Joker War is the story for you. Why? Because nothing happens!
I’m seeing a lot of praise being lavished on this arc – especially this issue – and I just have to wonder, “Why?” I mean, literally, nothing of substance happens. You have the Bat-family fighting clowns while Batman fights the Joker. That’s about it. No consequences. No lessons. No point.
Before I completely word-vomit my disdain for this story/ issue, let’s recap what’s taken place so far:
And there you go!
I’m kidding. Well… not really. Anyway, “Their Dark Designs” was essentially a ludicrous set-up for “Joker War,” where it was revealed that The Designer is actually dead, and that the Joker was pulling the strings the entire time. Rather than actually build the story of “Joker War” though, Tynion decided to blow his load all at once and jump straight to the climax for the debut issue. Joker has stolen Bruce’s money, hijacked all of the Bat toys, and has now taken over the entire city. The citizens aren’t doing anything. The GCPD isn’t doing anything. And the Bat-family isn’t doing anything because Batman hasn’t asked them for help. (Insert eye roll here.)
Forgetting the insane logic behind those last few points, structurally, this arc was set-up to fail because Tynion didn’t give himself anywhere to go. He began his story at the end. There was never any suspense or tension throughout the arc, and because of that, there weren’t any stakes. Despite that, we still got a string of issues that floundered about repeating the same story beats. In fact, it was so consistent that it almost felt like a checklist.
- Is there dialogue of Batman saying he’s lost everything? Check.
- Is Batman an absolute failure? Check.
- Has Harley saved Batman? Check.
- Do we have Punchline not doing anything of importance while we tell everyone she’s cool? Check.
- Is that a scene of Joker monologuing about his maniacal plan? Check.
- Have we teased that Joker knows Bruce Wayne is Batman? Check.
- Is there some version of Alfred torturing Batman? Check.
Great! Awesome! Lather, rinse, and repeat each of these for the next few issues until we get to the finale. At that point, we’ll have a huge fight to make it look like a lot of things are happening, but we won’t follow-up on a single subplot that’s been introduced for the run because it doesn’t matter.
And this is essentially what we get. The biggest win for this issue is undoubtedly Barbara returning to her role as Oracle – the verdicts out as to whether this is permanent or not – and the Bat-family coming back together. But seriously, the Bat-family fights the clowns that are across Gotham, and because they even remotely put up a fight, suddenly everyone has decided that the war is over and Joker lost.
Really? Some bats and birds throw a few punches and it’s quitting time? That doesn’t make any sense. There’s an army of Jokers and just a few heroes, but their presence is enough to make the Underbroker terminate his relationship with Joker, and for Punchline to have a complete meltdown. It’s all just too easy. We’ve had four issues of characters saying there’s no hope, but the entire conflict gets wrapped up in an issue? That’s pretty crappy.
There is a big fight between Joker and Batman, but it irritated me to no end. For one, this whole new suit thing is just stupid. No matter how you try to spin it, it’s a joke. Also, the fact that Joker came up behind Batman, monologuing, multiple times and still surprised him to stab him is just a steaming pile of crap. There wasn’t a single thing I enjoyed from that encounter other than Harley’s involvement.
If you were to ask me if I’m excited about James Tynion’s Batman plans for 2021, I’d tell you no. However, if you asked what I’d think about him writing a Harley Quinn maxi or mini, I’d actually be down for it. I genuinely like what Tynion is doing with Harley, and I think he’s playing with the character in ways that make sense for where the character is in her own arc. Seeing her shoot the Joker through the eye, then tell Batman he has to choose? Badass. Spending roughly two to three pages to accomplish that because Tynion desperately wants to come off as a deep, poetic writer? Not cool.
For the most part, Tynion’s bad habits are still on full display here. The script is bloated with unnecessary script. The characters read as “Generic Hero 1” or “Generic Villain 1” rather than having any core substance. And there’s way too much telling instead of showing…. You’ve got an incredible artist in Jorge Jimenez. Use him.
The end of the book is a collection of epilogues that almost puts Lord of the Rings: Return of the King to shame. The first tease is of Ghosthunter, and the entire thing just feels desperate. There are also teases for directions that we can expect to see Punchline and Clownhunter go. None of them excite me, and none of them feel very original. In fact, that’s kind of how I feel about Batman in general at this point. Generic and disappointing.
Jorge Jimenez delivers some quality work here, it’s just a shame he has stuck on Batman with Tynion writing. While I have nothing to complain about concerning Jimenez’s art, I do feel as though Tynion isn’t letting him play to his strengths. Jimenez executes emotions and relationships very well, it would be nice to see some elements of that here. Now that Tynion knows that the plan is for him to stick around though, I hope he lets his stories breathe a little. They definitely need it, and the art team deserves it.
- Come for the Bat-family reunion… But that’s it. You can skip the rest.
I can already see the comments now. “This isn’t a review!” Yeah? Well, “Joker War” isn’t a story. How’s that for you. But seriously, “Joker War” is a journey to nowhere and fans deserve better. At some point, DC Comics will realized that they need to actually invest in their books if they expect readers to invest in them as well.