Batman faces off with the Designer as "Their Dark Designs" reaches its epic climax! In the last year, Batman has lost more than he could have imagined, and now he faces a cost so dear it will change the course of his life. And there is worse on the horizon. In the midst of all the horror, he can feel the drumbeat of battle. "Joker War" is coming, and Gotham City will never be the same.
Let’s get this out of the way first– that cover is an atrocity. The image of an armed Joker sitting in a movie theater joking about what a great “Knight” it is to go to the theater after the 2012 Aurora, Colorado theater shootings during a viewing of The Dark Knight Rises in inexcusable and oversight I won’t be forgetting any time soon.
Okay, on to the actual issue. This run started with James Tynion IV taking over for Tom King after a long and controversial run. It felt fresh and new and the sky was the limit as Bruce had new designs for the city and a brand new villain to come mix it up with him. As the story progressed, though, it became less and less about a new chapter and began to feel more like a placeholder. The solicits for the impending “Joker War” hung in the air, with frequent cameos disrupting “Their Dark Designs” nearly every issue. By the PART 8 now it has become abundantly clear that this arc is nothing more than setup for the “Joker War” arc to come which will lead to the mysterious Batman #100. Rumors for this anniversary issue have come in all sorts of flavors but thanks to the firing of Dan DiDio as co-publisher, the delays due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and massive (and potentially dangerous) shifts in DC Comics’ business model, it’s getting more and more difficult to get excited about what feels like a story we’ve seen time and again. Bruce gets knocked down, he gets up again, you’re never gonna keep him down (you’re welcome for the ear worm… free of charge!).
Of course, more than the Designer, the hype surrounding Punchline continues and this particular issue features plenty of shock and a small does of awe as we see Punchline throw down with Harley. Harley once more warns Punchline of the abusive trap she’s walking into only to have Punchline… I don’t know how to categorize the response. I think it is critical here that as we have been trying to suss out exactly what the relationship between Punchline and the Joker is (as fans, anyway), here Punchline outright refers to herself as Harley’s “replacement” here. Before, she had called herself his partner and the idea of denigrating herself to replacement is disheartening for the future of this character, who seems to get flatter the more she is developed.
Perhaps there is redemption on the horizon for this run because we have all seen that the many players are capable of far better than we’ve seen so far but for now, the series continues to tread water waiting for something of consequence to happen and that can only sustain a series for so long.
Batman #93(Tynion IV, March, Fernandez) leaves readers with more questions than answers. Chief among them: Is "Joker War" here yet?
Batman #93: Joker War Prelude Part 8
Writing - 7/10
Storyline - 5/10
Art - 7/10
Color - 8/10
Cover Art - 1/10
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