Review: Batman #99

“Joker War” –  Part Five
Writer: James Tynion IV
Artist: Jorge Jimenez
Color Artist: Tomeu Morey
Letterer: Clayton Cowles
Mild Spoilers Ahead!
Review by Eric Lee

Batman #99 acts as a serviceable chapter, with good character moments, that sets up a seemingly-more eventful grand finale.

It’s hard to repeatedly articulate my middling enthusiasm for “Joker War”. I’ve said the same thing for each chapter: so far, “Joker War” is a pedestrian comic event. The story doesn’t summon a ton of excitement and enthusiasm for me. On the flip side, it never delves into the depths of being terrible or boring either. It’s just a perfectly mediocre comic book.

Part of the reason is that writer James Tynion does not richly exploit the premise of the Joker stealing Batman’s fortune. Yes, it’s fun seeing the Joker mindlessly buy a pool, or an unnecessarily long limo, but beyond the visuals, what has does this mean for the characters?

Does Joker love finally having all the resources and money to fully realize his imaginative criminal schemes? What’s Batman thinking, now that he has to  conserve his weapons without an unlimited trust fund to finance him? What are the Joker goons doing differently, other than using fancier weapons to terrorize people?

Tynion never really gets into it much. Everything is surface-level observation, other than Batman’s grief over Alfred’s death. Sadly, the lack of these internal reactions from other characters makes the whole story less emotionally engaging.

Actually, up until Batman #99, I didn’t even realize how starved I was for character moments. Outside of the memorable “I’m Batman” scene, we barely have any character-driven sequences.

More Character Moments

Fortunately, this chapter delivers some good ones. There’s a nice scene between Batman and Nightwing, and there’s even an interesting one with Harley and Bats, too. The Joker also finally gets a good monologue where he lays out his motives.

While i ‘s better late than never, it also highlights a problem with “Joker War” up until now: it’s almost all action.

Something else that’s surprisingly missing are any teases of what the Joker’s endgame is. We’re in the penultimate chapter, and we still don’t have an idea of what Joker’s goals are.

Similarly, the Clownhunter character doesn’t figure into the plot at all. It’s been five issues Tynion, why is this character sitting on the bench? Surely you could have given him some more scenes instead of Punchline!

Incidentally, I’d be remiss not at least talk about artist Jorge Jimenez’s amazingly atmospheric art. At this point, I may sound like a broken record, but his style is so lively and energetic, that it papers over the narrative’s weaknesses. The two silent pages of Batman entering Ace Chemicals are so moody and beautiful. It’s a waste of storytelling pages, but it’s so gorgeous, that I don’t care.

Conclusion

Like the previous “Joker War” instalments, Batman #99 is a middle-of-the-road superhero adventure. It rarely exploits its premise or gets into character head-space enough for me to feel an emotional connection, but it’s just interesting enough to keep readers coming back. While this issue adds some much-needed character moments, they may not be enough to keep my interest in this arc afloat.

Images courtesy of DC Entertainment


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Eric Lee

Eric Lee hails from San Francisco, California and has been one of the biggest fans of Batman since he was 2 years old when his dad showed him Tim Burton's 'Batman' on a fuzzy VHS. Currently, Eric is an avid comic book reader and writer and illustrator working on his own graphic novel. You can see his doodles at meeleeart.com.