The Dark Knight might be in the most difficult position he’s ever been in. His entire operation, as both Bruce Wayne and Batman, has been seized by the Joker and in Batman #95 we see what that means for him.
It’s a unique set-up, especially in the tired cycle that is Batman versus the Joker. It’s one that I’m not entirely sure if it works though. It comes to us thanks to James Tynion IV, Jorge Jimenez, Tomeu Morey, and Clayton Cowles.
The Joker owns Gotham now. With Bruce Wayne’s billions and Batman’s technology, the maniac has the means to rule the city in a way he never has before. Batman has a ticking clock now to try to pool as much resources as he can together before the Joker’s reign as the king of Gotham begins in earnest, but, with the Joker and his minions in control, it’s a mission that could claim his life!
This issue was a bit of a struggle for me. There were parts of it I really felt were excellent. I am actually enjoying Punchline as a character; even though her premise is basically, “Harley but irredeemable,” she’s proving to be an effective and frightening number two to the Joker. The Joker’s single extended scene, in the theater that the Waynes saw their last movie, was chilling, and probably the best the Joker has been written since Snyder.
On the other hand, the present day scenes with Batman were a bit of a slog. Though I struggle with Batman stories that are simply competency porn, this pushes the needle too far in the other direction. Yes, the point of the story is that the Joker’s actions put Batman off his game, but this is a version of the Dark Knight we’ve never seen before, knocked back so far that he’s ineffective, and possibly even incompetent. It makes for a difficult read.
The art though is almost impossibly good. Jimenez continues to grow as an artist. His action is extremely fluid, with a great sense of impact and subtle but effective sightlines. I really like his designs, which aren’t just interesting and eye catching, but they use people with different face and body types. For example, Punchline has a very different body type than your usual comic book woman- which makes her feel like a real human being a lot better than she does under other artists. Morey’s great color work makes the story feel unsettling and uneasy, a perfect match for what Tynion and Jimenez are going for.
This is an arc I’m still struggling with. There is so much promise in the story, but each issue falls slightly short. The art teams are really doing some great things though, and have been doing work worth picking up.
Batman #95 is available now from DC Comics.