01st Jun2021

‘The Joker War Saga’ Graphic Novel Review

by Phil Wheat

Written by James Tynion IV | Art by Jorge Jiménez | Published by DC Comics | Format: Hardback, 336pp

As the Clown Prince of Crime battles the Dark Knight Detective head-to-head one last time. The Joker has never wanted to win before–he’s never wanted his battle with Batman to end. But now his motivation has shifted. This collection features the Joker’s confrontation with Batgirl; his manipulation of the amnesiac Nightwing; and a turf war between Gotham City’s many evildoers! Plus, the debut of Clownhunter, a cameo by Ghost-Maker, and an epic battle between Harley Quinn and Punchine!

Collecting Batman #95-100, Batgirl #47, Detective Comics #1025, Red Hood: Outlaw #48, Nightwing #74, The Joker War Zone #1, plus stories from Harley Quinn #75 and Catwoman #25, The Joker War Saga brings together all of last Summer’s huge blockbusting storyline that introduced new Joker sidekick Punchine… In fact this was, honestly, one of most anticipated graphic novel releases of the year. Mainly because I’d been on something of a DC Comics kick since the release of the latest DCeased mini series and the awesome Dark Nights: Death Metal AND I’d bought into the Punchline hype. Which is probably why I was so disappointed by this book! Well that and the fact this is only half a story…

Yes, despite this book being titled “The Joker War Saga” and containing a myriad of tie-in books this is still NOT the entire story. This book instead drops you into a much larger tale, where the world of Gotham is already upside-down… Joker’s rich and buying up Gotham? How? Harley Quinn is now an enemy of Joker? Again, how? For those answers apparently you need to read the first volume of Tynion’s Batman run. For this is apparently a pseudo-volume two! What also doesn’t help is the layout of this book. Again, I appreciate the fact this book contains the core story and the tie-ins but how about we don’t inter-cut the core book with the tie-ins? It completely, at least for me, broke up the flow of the story. Even moreso given the tie-in stories are often in a totally different art style to the main story too!

Speaking of art, the main core “Joker War” portion of this book looks absolutely stunning. Jorge Jiménez’s art is a thing to behold – it not only looks clean but there’s a fluidity to it that perfectly captures the fast pace of the [latter half of] the story. Plus his “undead” look suitably grotesque! There’s a redesign of Batman’s suit thrown in and it’s a remarkable piece of art, looking like Batman’s new suit is made of a glass-like material – glistening and shining like actual armour. Though don’t get too excited; it’s NOT Batman’s ongoing new look! The quality of the artwork in tie-in books is a mixed bag however… The art in the Batgirl story, from Robbi Rodriguez looks great. As is Guillem March’s art in the Bane story. Whilst the Clownhunter story, with art by James Stokoe, looks as frantic as the action-packed story is.

In terms of the writing, the core story is a hard slog for the first half. It’s essentially building to a crescendo – the titular war – but that build is too slow and too convoluted, especially for those readers, like me, who are dipping their toes into a Batman book and are not hardcore fans. I found myself struggling to get into the story early doors, and it certainly didn’t help AT ALL having the tie-in stories splitting the main story up. What also didn’t help was the poor binding on this book – the gutter is too deep which means you lose some of the artwork and, at times, even speech bubbles disappear into the middle of the books binding!

The only saving grace for The Joker War Saga is the eventual war itself. The latter half of the book is jam-packed with action and excitement, with a great final showdown and a satisfying end to this particular chapter. Just a shame it takes a lot of work to get there.

The Joker War Saga is out now from DC Comics. Order yours here and help out the site.

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