(w) James Tynion IV (a) Jorge Jimenez (c) Tomeu Morey (l) Clayton Cowles
“The Joker War” may have begun in earnest, but rather than throw readers directly into the fray, writer James Tynion IV first filters his story through a narrowed lens. Batman #95 rewinds to an early Joker case, one that perplexes and disturbs Batman deeply. But because he had Alfred then, he had hope.
Now, Alfred is gone, dead after the events of last year’s City of Bane arc. Gone, too, is the hope he inspired in Batman. He has been dead for nearly a year, but we haven’t felt his absence as sorely as we do during the first few pages of this “Joker War” opener. The book finally shows just how screwed Batman is without his oldest friend, and it wouldn’t be unfair to say that Tynion and artist Jorge Jimenez are fighting an uphill battle. Luckily for everyone, they absolutely kill it here.
Batman’s darkest hour presents Tynion IV with an exquisite challenge: write an Alfred-less Batman. It’s a nightmarish prompt, but Tynion handles it with a grace characteristic of Batman’s best writers. He’s a phenomenal storyteller, one who can effortlessly shift from thoughtful quiet to complete pandemonium without sacrificing necessary narrative beats. He has obviously been writing without narrative assists from Alfred for months, but it’s here, when Gotham has truly gone to shit, that Bruce Wayne could use a friend. And it’s here, at the end of the line, that Tynion must continue to deprive Bats of that friend.
Jimenez’s carefully-paneled art is the perfect complement to Tynion’s cinematic approach to Batman; this issue boasts the resonance of an event book but never feels too big or self-important for an in-title story arc. He skimps on splash pages (which aren’t necessary here) so that emotion can take precedence over spectacle. By spotlighting Batman’s reactions, Jimenez is able to bring that pain, that loneliness, home with startling ease. It’s in Batman’s isolation that Tynion IV and Jimenez find the best, juiciest material, and it’s gonna be a blast to see where they take things from here.
These guys were born to tell Batman stories, and the love and care they show this character and his journey are testaments to just how qualified they are to bring the Batman/Joker conflict to a “close.” Regardless of whether or not the ramifications of this story last, there are going to be some significant consequences for every character involved. We’ll be keeping up every step of the way.