'The Joker War' soldiers on and James Tynion IV and Jorge Jimenez do a good job of reminding us why so many people love the Batman in the first place. This issue definitely represents the calm before the coming storm but both creators lend a spark of urgency that has only been present in stops and starts during the post-'Rebirth' era.
Jimenez, in particular, is pulling out all the stops as he really imbues the work with a kineticism that's refreshing to see. Coupled with some inspired coloring from Tomeu Morey, this might be the best-looking chapter in this arc.
Written by James Tynion IV
Art by Jorge Jimenez and Tomeu Morey
Lettering by Clayton Cowles
Published by DC
'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10
In a lot of ways, this is the kind of story that every writer wants to write with their favorite character. With his back against the wall and the weight of his past decisions haunting him, Bruce Wayne is finding it hard to muster up the strength to do what needs to be done. But he'll get there. He always does.
Tynion uses Alfred to reinspire the Caped Crusader and it works extremely well. Bruce finally gets to deal with the death of his mentor and father figure and uses his grief to power him forward. Batman has always found strength in his pain but it's nice to see his resolve wavering a little bit before he finds that strength again.
There's been a tendency to forget how to balance Bruce Wayne's humanity with Batman's superheroic determination. It's not that readers need to constantly see that Bruce is a broken man but reminding us why he does what he does (without just showing us Crime Alley again) makes for a better Batman story.
Jorge Jimenez and Tomeu Morey back up the work that Tynion is doing well in this issue. Jimenez has always been an exciting artist but with the Harley Quinn/Punchline fight at the center of this issue, he is really upping the ante.
While Punchline's design is still fairly dull, it does work to balance out Harley visually. With Morey providing neon pinks and electric blues across the book, Punchline adds a good bit of contrast to the page without overwhelming it.
But Jimenez' staging is extremely tight in this issue as well. While the book is cutting between Bruce's fever dream and the fight scene, Jimenez manages to keep either from being boring. It's been mentioned before but it's worth a mention again: facial expression work can really put a book over and Jimenez is one of the best at delivering emotive expressions.
I like what Tynion does with Bruce here because I think it reminds us of Batman's roots without beating us over the head with the same old tragic backstory. Batman has evolved since Crime Alley and more writers should be reminding us of that. Jimenez and Morey turn in a stunning bit of work in this issue and as we build to a hopefully big finale, it's going to be exciting to see how they push themselves further. So the Batman is back but 'The Joker War' still feels like it's missing something. I think a lack of the titular villain makes this something that will read slightly better in trade, but this is still a solid effort.