Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Batman: The Joker War Zone #1 Review and *SPOILERS*

This new issue features five different stories starring the Bat Family supporting cast as well as a fresh new face. Usually I rate each story individually but I figure I’ll just give you a rundown of what happens and then give a brief explanation as to how the story hit me, whether that be good or bad. Then at the end, we will give a final grade to the entire collection so you know whether an investment in this new story is worth the buy. So, without further ado, let’s jump into this new collection and see what stories it has for us.

Conversation with a Serial Killer

Written By: James Tynion IV
Art By: Guillem March, Tomeu Morey
Letters By: Clayton Cowles

Our first story takes us to Arkham Asylum. We get some narration from what seems to be a bystander and eventually we see the subject that he is writing about. Bane remains locked up in the Asylum and he is hooked up to a massive machine and chains that are holding him in place. He suddenly speaks to a shadowy figure hiding in the corner and Joker walks out. This leads to what is ultimately a long monologue from Joker to Bane. The first thing he does is place Bane’s mask on the imprisoned man and remarks about how the machine is slowly draining the Venom from his body. It turns out that Joker is mad at Bane because of the incident with Alfred. He knows that the butler was special to Batman and he sees Bane as having wasted his death on a simple Robin. He vows to pay Bane back for what he has done but he leaves him unharmed and their conversation ends. This first part is very well written and while some of the panels look a little strange, the art is really superb! I really enjoyed this section because it gave me a new look at how Joker and Bane interact with each other. Bane taking over Gotham not that long ago and killing Alfred sent ripples through the Bat Family but it’s odd to think about how his death impact Joker as well. It’s an interesting little side story line and I hope to see more of it in the future.

Batwing’s Back ALRIGHT!

Written By: John Ridley
Art By: Oliver Coipel, Matt Hollingsworth
Letters By: Deron Bennett

We jump to the Fox residence where we see Lucius at home but he is still haunted by the encounter with Punchline and it seems some of the residual effects of the drugs are still prevalent in his system. The family has gathered in the living room and are going over the accounts that were given to them by Catwoman. The family argues about what to do with the money. Some want to use it in order to help Gotham and others feel that it would be irresponsible to spend it as it belongs to Bruce Wayne and not themselves. They are suddenly interrupted by a massive vehicle bursting through the wall and tons of Joker Gang members flood into the home. After dropping some smoke, Luke dawns his Batwing outfit and the fight begins. Lucius sees this and grows angry. He rushes to his safe and pulls out a gun. He shoots a couple of gang members and when Batwing tries to reason with him, he points the gun at him too telling him to leave his home. Then the police show up and draw their weapons on Lucius who surrenders but Luke returns to the scene to inform the police that it is his father and the police apologize claiming that it was because of the look he has from the Joker Toxin. This part of the story is one of the weakest in the collection. While it’s nice to see how Lucius is doing, I feel like his doesn’t really add any context to the world as a whole. I thought they might go a different route and talk about the current events surrounding the police but they shied away from it at the last moment and thus the story just ends.

We All Need a Symbol

Written By: Joshua Williamson
Art By: David Lafuente, Hi-FI
Letters By: Gabriela Downie

Our middle story begins with a villain known as the Hench Master who trains the grunts that make up the armies that Gotham’s villains have been using as of late. His training session is suddenly interrupted by Spoiler and Orphan who tear though his trainees. We then cut back to the two of them sharing some bonding time during some rest. During this time, Spoiler reveals that she knows of another Bat Signal that they could retrieve to replace the one that was destroyed and give the city it’s symbol again. We return to the fight to see Spoiler and Orphan just make a mockery of the henchmen and despite a small fight from Hench Master, he is easily dispatched in a matter of moments. They retrieve the Signal, bring it to the Watchtower and then they leap into action to protect Gotham once more. This is another part of the collection that falls a little flat. I don’t think it’s bad as it’s usually pretty nice to see these two interact with each other but again, this doesn’t really add to the story at all, aside from giving a small explanation as to why there are so many Joker Gang members in Gotham, which I didn’t really need that context but I guess I have it now. Some great art though!

Queen Ivy

Written By: Sam Johns
Art By: Laura Braga, Antonio Fabela
Letters By: Tom Napolitano

Our penultimate story focuses on Poison Ivy as she returns to her little section of Eden in search of Harley. Instead, she finds Joker Gang members who have started a fire in her home and polluted the ground with empty cans and litter. They initially think she’s there to join them but she soon attacks them with her plants and burns them all to a crisp. When a new member shows up with more snacks, Ivy takes her prisoner. This whole section then serves as a soapbox for Ivy to rant about how she has been focusing too much on her human side and needs to refocus on the plants around her. In recent years, aside from the odd story here and there, Ivy has more served as a hero, or at least not a villain, but this story seems to realign that way of thinking and making her dangerous once again. This story isn’t very creative or anything but I like it because the art is really great to look at and it’s nice to catch up with Ivy and knowing that she will play a role in the universe in the coming year is exciting.

The Main Event

Written By: James Tynion IV
Art By: James Stokoe
Letters By: Clayton Cowles

Here’s what we’ve all been waiting for. The end of this issue is one that deals with the new vigilante, Clownhunter. It follows the story of a small group of Joker Gang members who meet with the Joker and Punchline and are instructed to find and kill Clownhunter. The group moves to The Narrows and finds gang members strung up. When one of them tries to cut them down, he is caught in an explosion and killed. The three remaining get moving in a more serious manner now. They see civilians watching them from their window and eventually the group comes across one of Joker’s missing trucks. When investigating, another is caught in a new explosion and the face off begins. Clownhunter starts by shooting the third one in the head and its comes down to the final fight. The final gang members gives him some trouble and we see that under the mask, Clownhunter is just a small teen at this point and we see that his baseball bat has a batarang attached to it. This is where we learn that the kid most likely idolized Batman at one point but now he thinks that Batman had his chance and he is looking for a more permanent solution the their struggles. He kills the final gang member and raises his weapon victoriously, all while being cheered on by the residents of this area. HOLY CRAP this part is amazing! I’ve been waiting for more information on Clownhunter since he was introduced and this gave me plenty but still left me wanting more. This part of the coming makes this a “must-read” as far as I’m concerned now and I’m hoping he starts playing a bigger part in the Batman comic in general.

Bits and Pieces

There are some really good stories in this collection and there are some pretty “meh” ones as well. However, it all comes down to the main event and frankly, it is a homerun! Clownhunter is the most interesting part of the Batman book right now and unfortunately he isn’t being used all that much but we get to see him in all his glory this time around and that alone is enough to make me believe that this book is worth buying. The other stories are pretty good too, so there’s plenty to like about this.


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