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Review: Batman #101

Batman #101

With the first two story arcs of the new direction over, Batman #101 wraps things up reiterating writer James Tynion IV‘s vision for the character and charting a new direction. While “Joker War” had its ups and downs what it clearly laid out is that Batman has failed in his mission. Gotham is really no better off and his tactics haven’t worked to have the city progress from its crime-infested corrupt roots. Batman #101 lays that all out with an exclamation point and begins to lay the groundwork as to where Gotham, and Batman, goes from here.

Tynion reiterates his vision for where he’s taking Batman. Gone will be the fancy toys that solved all his problems. In is a grittier, back to his roots take. There’s no more Alfred to fix things. There’s no more Wayne Enterprises to funnel projects through. The spotlight is on Bruce Wayne and his finances forcing him to think differently and change his operation. With Lucius Fox now in control of the Wayne fortune, Bruce and Batman need to make decisions in their future.

That goes beyond Batman, it extends to his relationships as well. Catwoman is center stage for the issue as the Bat and Cat discuss their future after the marriage that didn’t happen. There’s a lot of reflection from Bruce on multiple fronts that’ll have some interesting ramifications for the future. And there’s downright hints as what’s to come as the classic WildC.A.T.s character Grifter is introduced as Fox’s new security. What’s said and what happens will have readers excited.

The art by Guillem March is solid. Featuring color from Tomeu Morey and lettering from Clayton Cowles, there’s a lack of the destruction we’ve seen through previous arcs. Instead, there’s a dirty calm about everything. Things haven’t recovered and you can see the scars remain in the art. That’s everything from the status of the city to how Lucius looks. The art tells you the damage is still there and it’s a city recovering. Tynion sets the internal thoughts but the art team sets how Gotham and the characters are in every other way.

Batman #101 sets the stage for the next direction of Batman and Gotham. It also feels like the start of a commentary on the state of our world. Corruption is underpinning society. Those who have, or have supported, heinous acts are hiding their masks from their neighbors. It’s something we’ll likely see happen depending on who wins the November election and starting to see now. There’s a new status-quo in Gotham and Batman #101 begins our journey into that world.

Story: James Tynion IV Art: Guillem March
Color: Tomeu Morey Letterer: Clayton Cowles
Story: 8.25 Art: 8.25 Overall: 8.25 Recommendation: Buy

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Review: Batman #100

Batman #100

Joker War” ends here with the monumental Batman #100 that has Batman taking on the Joker for Gotham. Much like the issues leading up to this finale, the issue feels like a statement as to where Batman is going in the continued shift from the previous writer Tom King’s epic run. “Joker War,” much like the previous arc, is more of a statement as to the vision of the character and a transition as to the direction for the new creative team.

Written by James Tynion IV, Batman #100 is broken down into various segments each with an important role to play. The main of course is Batman and his allies taking on the Joker and his. Each character feels like they have their moment and there’s a lot of “hell yeah” for so many of them. Barbara Gordon is front and center as she steps back into her role as Oracle, something that will make numerous fans of the character happy. Her banter with characters like Nightwing feels like fanservice that re-centers the relationship between the two and reestablishing their playful flirting. Nightwing two steps back in with Dick Grayson in his classic black and blue and tasked with taking on Punchline. After months of the character’s journey, that should also make fans happy.

But, the main focus is really Batman taking on the Joker within a chemical plant as the two do their usual dance. What’s interesting out of it is a couple of things. The Joker is obsessed with his role not as just the Clown Prince of Crime but the connection he has with Batman. With Harley Quinn’s inclusions, the entire part of the comic is a look at the abusive relationship the Joker has with the two characters. It also stresses that maybe Batman and Harley aren’t so different and might have a lot in common. It’s a scene of empowerment as Batman stands up against the Joker.

But, the Joker takes it in another direction focused on how Batman hasn’t been good for Gotham. The city and system is broken as is and what the Joker has done and accomplished is evidence of that. Batman is disconnected from the reality of his city as he has been disconnected from so much of his family. And that’s been part of the point of “Joker War”. It recenters Bruce and Batman and gives them a new direction and outlook at it all.

What Harley does and Batman’s reaction is most interesting signaling where the series might be going and a slightly different take on Batman. But, we’ll all see as much is teased about what’s to come including a new nemesis to focus on.

All of the above is beautifully drawn by Jorge Jimenez with color by Tomeu Morey and lettering by Clayton Cowles. The art is amazing with so much packed in and energy that pops from the page. Each fight is brutal and you can feel the daggers being dug into Batman by the Joker. Joker has rarely looked better and just each segment pops with excitement. Batman has had some fantastic art in years but this is some of the best artwork that has graced the series.

And there’s so much more packed in…

Tynion continues his focus on Clownhunter where we learn his motivation and his name in the appropriately named story “Intervention.” With art by Carlo Pagulayan, the story has Batman confronting the new character-revealing everything we need to know about him and teasing a possible direction. It’s an interesting back and forth and there’s a lot of potential here for the character. Clownhunter is a failure of the system Batman has created. He’s a product of Batman’s inability and unwillingness to truly deal with evil and injustice. It’s everything that the Joker talks about in his battle with Batman personified. With the right direction and creative team, we potentially have an exploration of Batman’s failures in an intriguing character.

Wrapping up the issue is “Dead Ringer” which is an epilogue to the event and story. We get a bit more about Punchline and what happens to her, it sets up more that I’d rather not spoilt. Guillem March handles the art from the story by Tynion and both make a discussion in a diner and recorded video being watched interesting. It too has some potential with exploring the ideas and themes that the Joker goes on about in his battle.

Batman #100 is what I’ve wanted from “Joker War” since the beginning. Yes, it does feel a bit like a transition to what’s next, it’s also a statement as to Batman’s failures. This issue lays out the Joker’s motivations and viewpoints and forces us to question Batman’s effectiveness in multiple ways. We see how Batman’s inaction has impacted a citizen of Gotham and perpetuated the violence. We also see that failure of definitive action being explored again perpetuating the cycle. This is the highlight of an uneven event and finally delivers meat on the bones.

Story: James Tynion IV Art: Jorge Jimenez, Carlo Pagulayan, Guillem March
Color: Tomeu Morey Letterer: Clayton Cowles
Story: 9.0 Art: 9.0 Overall: 9.0 Recommendation: Buy

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Review: Batman: The Joker Warzone #1

Batman: The Joker Warzone #1

DC’s “Joker War” has been a bit of a mixed bag for me as an event. Some of it feels like we’ve seen it before. While it has some good moments, it also feels like it never quite commits to the chaos. What bothers me the most is that the story feels like it’s just a bridge to what comes next. It’s not a story I feel like I can pick up on its own to enjoy. Through the issues of Batman, it never quite feels like a story that is a stand-alone adventure to enjoy. That might be even more pronounced in Batman: The Joker Warzone #1. It’s a tie-in comic filled with creative talent, solid stories, art, and a few “continued in 2021”. It’s also very good.

A Serious House” opens the comic. Written by James Tynion IV with art by Guillem March, color by Tomeu Morey, and lettering by Clayton Cowles it focuses on a confrontation between the Joker and Bane. The story is fantastic with a fascinating back and forth as Joker goes over his issues with Bane and contemplates ending his life. There’s a “play” like quality about the segment and with amazing art it’s the highlight of the issue. It sets up something for 2021 which feels a bit frustrating in that it telegraphs more to come instead of surprising and hints that the Joker survives “Joker War” for that to happen.

Family Ties” features writer John Ridley, art by Olivier Coipel, color by Matt Hollingsworth, and lettering by Deron Bennett. Focused on the Fox family, the story focuses on their receiving information to unlock Bruce Wayne’s fortune. But, Ridley takes that concept and adds so much to it giving us a mini-debate about what good Bruce, and thus Batman, are doing with all of this money. Could they use the money in a better way to help people? Should it go back to Bruce. With an ending that feels ripped from the headlines, Ridley shows why he’s one of the best storytellers in any medium today.

The Symbol” is by writer Joshua Williamson, art by David LaFuente, color by Hi-Fi, and lettering by Gabriela Downie. Orphan and Spoiler are on a mission to get a Bat-symbol where they wind up fighting Hench Master. Hench Master feels like a new character whose job it is to “train” henchmen for various villains. It’s a fun story that feels like it’d fit in any Batman anthology and an entertaining fun distraction that’s a bit cheerier with some good action sequences.

Ashes of Eden” is by writer Sam Johns, art by Laura Braga, color by Antonio Fabela, and lettering by Tom Napolitano. Ivy is dealing with the destruction of Eden. The entire segment is a declaration from Ivy about where her head is at and what’s to come. It’s also another story arc that we’ll see in 2021. What’s interesting, and possibly the most controversial, is Ivy seems to reject all humans and that might include Harley. Whether I’m reading too much into it, I have no idea but the Ivy/Harley stans may get a bit angry about what’s to come for these two.

Wrapping up the comic is “Clown Hunt” by writer James Tynion IV, art by James Stokoe, and lettering by Clayton Cowles. This is our first real story about Clownhunter who has stalked the Joker’s henchman and delivered brutal justice. We don’t know much about the character but we get our first good look at Clownhunter without the mask and better sense of what the citizens of Gotham thinks about him. There’s a lot of potential for a long-term interesting addition to the world of Batman and where this one goes is exciting.

Overall, Batman: The Joker Warzone #1 is a solid one-shot. It adds some stories within “Joker War” without making them vital. There’s a bit too much left to be experienced in 2021 which emphasizes my issues with “Joker War” overall. It doesn’t feel self-contained enough. If you took those segments and left out the “too be continued,” these would be really solid on their own. Even if you’re not reading “Joker War,” there’s enough here to enjoy and worth checking out. It’s the rare event one-shot where you can ignore the actual event.

Story: James Tynion IV, John Ridley, Joshua Williamson, Sam Johns
Art: Guillem March, Olivier Coipel, David LaFuente, Laura Braga, James Stokoe
Color: Tomeu Morey, Matt Hollingsworth, Hi-Fi, Antonio Fabela
Letterer: Clayton Cowles, Deron Bennett, Gabriela Downie, Tom Napolitano
Story: 8.25 Art: 8.25 Overall: 8.25 Recommendation: Buy

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It’s the Bat and the Cat in Batman/Catwoman #1 in December

After lots of anticipation, DC has announced that Batman/Catwoman #1 arrives December 1 from Tom King, Clay Mann, Tomeu Morey, and Clayton Cowles.

The series is told across three separate timelines and continues King’s story from his run on Batman.

Gotham City. Today. Bruce Wayne and Selina Kyle have rekindled their long-running, on-again, off-again relationship. Believing all obstacles are removed from their path, they once again begin operating as a duo in their secret lives: Batman and Catwoman working together to fight crime.

There’s the past, when The Bat and The Cat first fell in love. Did they meet on the street? Or was it on a boat? Rooftops, ramparts and gargoyles, and over 80 years of fans that have read their comics, are their only witnesses.

There’s the distant future, where after a long and happy marriage Bruce Wayne has passed away. Selina Kyle decides to settle an old score without having to worry about the Batman objecting. Catwoman is serving a very cold dish: Revenge.

The series is also the hotly wanted debut of Andrea Beaumont, a.k.a. Phantasm to the DC Universe. Beaumont’s return questions how each character operates in their costume and personal lives and threatens Bruce and Selina’s future.

But what about the Joker? He robber Batman and Catwoman of their wedding. Any change in the Dark Night’s life will be result in more chaos from the Clown Prince of Crime.

Batman/Catwoman, by Tom King, Clay Mann, Tomeu Morey, and Clayton Cowles, edited by Jamie S. Rich and Brittany Holzherr, will launch a 12-issue run on December 1, 2020, with a cover by Mann and Morey and a variant cover by Jim Lee, Scott Williams, and Alex Sinclair with a main cover by Travis Charest. New issues will ship monthly with a skip month planned for a Batman/Catwoman Special in June 2021, and the series will carry DC’s Black Label content descriptor, indicating content appropriate for readers ages 17+.

Preview: Batman #98

Batman #98

Joker War” has been an interesting ride so far. Running through Batman and other related titles, the event has had the Joker steal Bruce Wayne’s fortune, toys, and company turning it all against Batman. Batman #98 is part four of the event and like previous chapters, it’s a bit stretched out and while good, doesn’t excite or deliver anything new.

Writer James Tynion IV delivers that moment we’ve seen so many times before in films, television, and other stories. Batman is tripping, attempting to get the Joker Toxin out of his system. He has his moment of reflection and discussion with his dead mentor. It’s his Rocky talking to Mickey moment and there’s even a close “dammit Rock” thrown in there. While Batman is out of it, Punchline and Harley Quinn battle things out in Ivy’s hiding space giving them another chance to square off.

Batman #98 is a fine part of the overall arc but on its own, it’s something we’ve seen over and over. All it’s missing is a montage with proper music while Batman gets back into a healthy status.

What makes Batman #98 not a total loss is the art by Jorge Jimenez. The art features an interesting juxtaposition between Batman’s trippy visuals versus the battle between Harley and Punchline. While one is the standard page layouts with your standard boxes, the other is a kinetic battle. Jimenez has the fight break the page with odd shapes and a nice mix of panel sizes. Jimenez is helped by the color of Tomeu Morey and the lettering of Clayton Cowles. The action scenes pop from the page and when Batman eventually clears his head, literally pops.

But Jimenez and the team make sure to give Bruce’s struggle its moments too. The emotion delivered in panels by Bruce and Alfred really sell the scenes. The delivery takes a rather trope-ish cliche and gives us something more visually interesting. It’s the emotional catharsis we’ve been waiting for and expecting since Tynion took over his run.

“Joker War” as a whole hasn’t been as exciting as one would hope. The event falls upon concepts we’ve seen so many times before. It’s an entertaining read though more in a summer popcorn way. It feels like it’s a setup for what’s coming next for Bruce as he will deal with the fallout from the event. Much like the previous arc, “Joker War” doesn’t feel so much as a story unto itself as opposed to the setup of what comes next, more focused on the next arc instead of itself. Much like Batman #98, the event as a whole feels like the pivot to what comes next.

Story: James Tynion IV Art: Jorge Jimenez
Color: Tomeu Morey Letterer: Clayton Cowles
Story: 7.0 Art: 8.5 Overall: 7.0 Recommendation: Read

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Review: Batman #97

Batman #97

The “Joker War” rages on in Batman #97 that hits a point that it feels the story and event is being dragged out a bit too much. Batman is battling visions and hallucinations as the Joker Toxin takes ahold of him. It’s a story we’ve seen over and over and while interesting, it feels like a way to delay the story a bit. It’s an attempt to add some tension for a story that is easily resolved otherwise.

Written by James Tynion IV, Batman #97 has Batman in the theater battling reanimated corpses refusing to take the time to heal before the massive battle that’s to come. It also focuses on Clownhunter, a new vigilante who’s taking on the Joker’s crew in brutal ways. All of it is to give the reader the idea that chaos is engulfing Gotham. But, beyond the Clownhunter’s concept and some wide shots of fires and smoke, the reality of that chaos isn’t explored enough.

The Joker would have you believe his latest plan is getting other individuals to stand up and “break” Batman’s rules. The personification of that is Clownhunter as he douses the Joker’s henchmen in gas and sets them on fire. But, even that is something we’ve seen before in characters such as Azrael who took the war on evil a bit more hardcore. We’re shown things we’ve experienced as readers but this time with a supposed Joker spin to it all. That spin of course involves more Joker Toxin showing the villain as a one-note type of guy, failing to be creative in his end plan.

Where the story falls short, the art is top-notch. Jorge Jimenez‘s pencils along with color by Tomeu Morey and lettering by Clayton Cowles is fantastic. There’s some great art and action sequences and this depiction of the Joker is one of the best in recent years. Batman’s descent into hallucinations is subtle which is both good and bad. The visuals for the comic could be over the top but as presented we’re watching him dealing with it and the action not his experiences. But, the madness settling in is enhanced through panel layouts that are visually interesting and with colors that pop.

“Joker War” hasn’t really hooked me yet. Batman #97, and the event as a whole, isn’t bad it just doesn’t feel original enough so far. We’ve seen Batman trip on toxin. We’ve seen the Joker gas a lot of people. We’ve seen heroes lose their fortune. We’ve seen Gotham in chaos. But, it’s still been entertaining with pretty visuals and beautiful colors and lettering. The story arc is a bit of a letdown from the previous one but here’s hoping it keeps building to something a bit more interesting than what we’ve seen so far.

Story: James Tynion IV Art: Jorge Jimenez
Color: Tomeu Morey Letterer: Clayton Cowles
Story: 7.0 Art: 8.7 Overall: 7.15 Recommendation: Read

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Scott Snyder, Tony S. Daniel, Tomeu Morey, Deron Bennett, and Will Dennis Kickstart Nocternal from Snyder’s Best Jackett Press

Imagine that tomorrow the sun simply doesn’t rise. You wait. And you wait, but night just continues… 

You can still feel the sun’s warmth – it must be there – but for some reason, light no longer reaches the earth. There’s only darkness. But this new darkness, there’s something strange about it, something terrifying. Because anything – or anyone – that stays in it too long starts to change… 

Bestselling comic book writer Scott Snyder, acclaimed artist Tony S. Daniel, colorist Tomeu Morey, letterer Deron Bennett, and editor Will Dennis are collaborating on Nocternal — a new creator-owned comic book series about humanity trying to survive in everlasting darkness — and launching a Kickstarter campaign for Nocternal Collector’s Edition, an exclusive, behind-the-scenes edition of the series’ debut issue. Starting at 72 pages, Nocternal Collector’s Edition is a one-of-a-kind reading experience, with Scott Snyder’s script displayed alongside Tony S. Daniel’s linework to provide a rare look at the process of making comics. If funded on Kickstarter, Nocternal Collector’s Edition will be released to backers ahead of Image Comics’ release of issue 1 this winter and would mark the first time that one of Snyder’s scripts has been published in its entirety.

Nocternal takes place ten years after the world is plunged into an everlasting night that turns all living creatures into monstrous “shades.” Enter Valentina “Val” Riggs, a skilled “ferryman” who transports people and goods along deadly unlit roads with her heavily illuminated eighteen-wheeler. When an old man promising sanctuary offers Val a job to drive him and his granddaughter up through the Rocky Mountains, she takes it, hoping there might be some truth to his claim. What she finds in the end, though, is something much more horrifying than any shade…

To showcase Daniel’s line art in all its detailed glory, the creators are printing the collector’s edition in black and white, available in two formats: an unsigned softcover and a hardcover signed by Snyder and Daniel. Both editions will only be available to Kickstarter backers. The funding goal of $37K will cover the book printing, rewards production, and fees from Kickstarter, Stripe, and BackerKit. Any funds that are raised beyond the funding goal will help cover production costs for the first story arc, up until issue #6. Additional pledge tiers include a limited edition lithograph, a sketch by Daniel, a master class with Snyder, and more.

Review: Batman #96

Batman #96

There’s a lot I want to like about Batman #96, the second part of “Joker War.” Having been dosed with a new Joker Toxin, Batman is beaten and bloodied and has no idea what’s going on. He also was in the middle of a major attack on Wayne Enterprises making him a target of Gotham as a city.

Writer James Tynion IV bounces around the issue with interesting concepts but not enough depth to really explore any of the concepts. Like an individual dazed after being beaten, the comic stumbles in a way much like its main character. Batman hallucinates horrors, the Joker plays psychological games, the Joker’s team uses public relations and money to turn opinion around on Batman. All of those concepts are great and interesting. Each could easily be an issue by themselves. But, in a 22-ish page comic, it doesn’t feel like enough time to really explore any of them.

While I’d like to see a greater exploration of any of these concepts, the mix of them works too. It enhances the chaos that is Gotham currently and how in the moment Batman is in dealing with the situation. It enhances that this is a hero who is off his game and is struggling in many ways. It’s still interesting but as opposed to a concept with a lot of depth, the ideas feel a little shallow.

But, part of what makes it all work is the art by Jorge Jimenez. Along with colors by Tomeu Morey and lettering by Clayton Cowles, the art helps enhance the unease Batman is experiencing. There’s some fantastic visuals from the subtle horror of Bruce’s visions to the opening action. There’s an interesting mix in the visuals of the comic. They all work together and in many ways are a logical step from one to the other. The visuals when examined on the macro is a descent for Batman from an ideal world to the horror of his reality. You can see that in the visuals and the coloring and even the lettering that depicts the madness of the Joker.

Batman #96, and “Joker War” as a whole, has been an interesting event that has had some great concepts. But, much like a summer blockbuster film, those concepts never quite get the depth and focus they deserve. There’s so many directions and levels this event could take place and we’re getting the “action” version of it. It’s not bad. It’s actually quite entertaining. But, reading the two chapters so far, it’s hard to not see the potential within and how many more interesting directions it could have gone.

Story: James Tynion IV Art: Jorge Jimenez
Color: Tomeu Morey Letterer: Clayton Cowles
Story: 7.75 Art: 8.45 Overall: 7.85 Recommendation: Read

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Preview: Batman #96

Batman #96

Story: James Tynion IV
Art: Jorge Jimenez
Color: Tomeu Morey
Letterer: Clayton Cowles

Reeling from the effects of the worst Joker toxin attack ever, Batman is on the run through Gotham City, pursued by the dark shadows and voices that haunt his past and present! As the Joker’s plan materializes, the only person who can save Batman from the brink of true madness…is Harley Quinn?! Plus, who is the mysterious new figure known as Clownhunter?

Batman #96

Review: Batman #95

Batman #95

The Joker War” officially kicks off with Batman #95! Batman and Bruce Wayne have been stripped of their toys and wealth. The Joker has siphoned every dollar taking over Wayne Enterprises and is using the media and elected officials to play his game.

Written by James Tynion IV, there’s a lot to like about this beginning chapter of “The Joker War”. But, there’s also a lot there that feels like we’ve seen it all before. The concept of the rich superhero having their wealth stripped and company seized is something that regularly happens. Green Arrow and Iron Man have experienced it, if not multiple times. So, in that essence, Batman #95 doesn’t deliver a whole lot new. There are a lot of interesting details to make it worth checking out though.

Much of the issue dances around the two sides jockeying for position. It’s focus is the opposing factions taking stock of what assets they have. With Lucious Fox controlled by Punchline, the Joker’s crew taps into the material and tech hidden away at Wayne Enterprises. They also use the information at their disposal to paint a picture of a billionaire secretly funding Batman, and the media to demand that technology is returned. It’s a battle of public relations not just wits and fists. Batman has no idea what’s compromised so takes his opportunity to see where things stand and what the Joker is in control of.

Tynion does a good job of setting up the back and forth. Tynion also teases the game played between these two characters for years. By using his first case against the Joker, we see why Batman fears him and the psychological aspects of their relationship. And this is where the issue, and storyline, has the best chance of standing out. There’s a back-and-forth between these two that is hopefully explored more. What’s done here is an interesting set up that indicates we’ll see it. While the general plot is “been there, seen that,” the relationship between the two is unique, for example the Joker could easily unmask Batman but chooses not to. He knows Bruce’s trauma and looks to be using that somehow. These are the small things that stand out.

The art by Jorge Jimenez is pretty solid. Along with color by Tomeu Morey and lettering by Clayton Cowles, the look of the comic is solid. The fight between Batman and Punchline is well framed and though the comic lacks really dynamic splash pages or moments, there’s a tenseness to the art that really fits the story well. It feels like the coiling of a spring before an explosion of energy down the road.

Batman #95 isn’t an explosive start but it delivers an interesting start. There’s a lot of fascinating choices, the police standing up for Batman as an example, that will hopefully pay off nicely down the road. This feels like the opening of an epic film, a slow opening but one that does a fine job of setting things up. If you’re interested in “The Joker War.” Batman #95 is worth checking out. But, if you’re new to Batman and want to see what this story is about, you may walk away wondering what the buzz was about.

Story: James Tynion IV Art: Jorge Jimenez
Color: Tomeu Morey Letterer: Clayton Cowles
Story: 7.75 Art: 8.0 Overall: 7.75 Recommendation: Read

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