Review: Batman #97
Artist: Jorge Jimenez
Color Artist: Tomeu Morey
Letterer: Clayton Cowles
Review by Max Byrne
The "Joker War" story arc continues in Batman #97, moving events forward without taking any giant steps, in the narrative sense. Featuring some truly glorious action sequences, and a return (of sorts) of a much missed, essential character in the Batman mythos, this is an engaging, and highly entertaining issue.
There's plenty of content to enjoy, although the lack of an endgame plan for Joker brings a slight halt to the proceedings. Nevertheless, this reviewer has always preferred writers that play the long game, and don't reveal their hand too early, drawing us in piece by piece, so this works just fine for me.
Following the events of #96, Batman finds himself still under the influence of Punchline's diabolical concoction, which affects his mind and results in bizarre hallucinations. This leads to some Bat on Zombie fisticuffs, showcasing the wonderful art style of Jorge Jimenez. With our titular character unable to trust his own eyes, Jimenez beautifully renders a blindfolded Batman, robbed of his sight, but fighting with the same aplomb as always. Kinetic, hard hitting and impactful, Jimenez is one of the finest purveyors of a fight scene working in comics today. A real treat, and no mistake.
A nice little offshoot to the main narrative is that of the Clownhunter. Seemingly a mere teen, armed with extremely primitive weaponry, his effectiveness at killing Joker's hired goons is pretty damn good. Where this character comes from, and from where he gathers his motivation remains to be revealed, but based on what we have seen thus far, he's an enjoyable distraction, and his inevitable meeting with Batman should provide ample entertainment.
What has been an intriguing plot device over the last couple of issues is the pseudo return of Alfred Pennyworth to the mix. Still very much dead, of course, this incarnation is very much in the drug affected mind of Batman. However, the way in which this version of Alfred still serves as a dispenser of sage advice, and as a voice of reason, is very consistent with the character, and shows that Tynion knows how to utilise him. Whilst a return from the grave isn't apparently imminent, this does, in its own way, make us fans feel as though we have him back. Whether this will be the status quo for the longer term remains to be seen, but as a short term fix? I like it.
With an ending that promises a further trip into the inner workings of the Dark Knight's mind in the next issue, it would appear that this "Joker War" is going to be fought as much on the mental plain as on the physical. The villain's grand plan will inevitably involve all sorts of unspeakable horrors, and I for one cannot wait to see how it all plays out. Taking into account the storyline currently taking shape in the Nightwing comics too, dark days are ahead.
An involved and dark issue, Batman #97 is well worth a read. Tynion's giving us the story in piecemeal fashion, demanding that we invest mentally in the content, with the rewards there for those that do so.
Although Bat/Joker conflicts have been depicted ad nauseum, this particular version feels worthy and fresh. The after-effects could be felt for a long time to come...