DC Comics continues The Joker War in Batman 96. Part two of the story comes across as an odd mix of the really cool and the absolutely mundane. Overall this second part delivers very little in terms of action or character advancement. It feels like 23 pages of exposition. We are told many things, but shown very little. At the same time there are some nuggets in here that are pretty damned awesome.

Batman 96: Cover to Cover

There are three covers for this issue. The main cover sells the Joker’s control batman’s toys. Joker runs around in the Batmobile with Batman surfing the top. It plays right into the story and looks wonderful.

The second cover looks absolutely amazing, but did they get the issue wrong? The second cover is a positively gorgeous Catwoman cover. IT could grace any of her issues and blend right in, so why is it on Batman 96? Catwoman has nothing to do with this story.

The final cover looks great from an artistic standpoint, but it depicts nothing more than a dejected hoodlum walking towards us.

Batman 96: A Story Told Not Shown

I fear the greatest drawback of this Joker War story line will come from its brevity. This story line felt like such a major event that it very well could have stretched all of the Bat titles or at least lasted longer than 5 issues. The fact we get 5 issues leads to problems like this issue. We are told the state of Gotham instead of shown the state of Gotham.

Joker now owns and runs not only Wayne Enterprise, but he controls all of Batman’s toys and gadgets. Imagine Joker and his gang zooming around Gotham in batmobiles and batwings and having every gadget Batman ever had. Should scare the crap out of us. Right? Instead we see a couple of panels with Joker and his goons joyriding, and that is all.

Batman 96: A Dream Within a Dream

One of the fun things with this episodes comes from the beginning. Its starts with a bit of confusion as we do not know what we are seeing, but we learn this is Gotham, or at least the Gotham in a Utopian society. Batman needs to take down Fries and his ‘kids’. Not only does he do this effortlessly, but we find out crime is now rare in Gotham.

Perhaps the biggest part of the opening scene comes from Batman. First off the whole scene should be impossible for one reason – It’s daytime! Batman is working openly during the day. Also, the new suit hinted at in Batman 95 – He wears it for this entire opening scene. To be honest it looks pretty sweet and I hope it becomes Batman’s new suit in issues 100 and forward. It does look sharp.

Batman 96: Who Is Babysitting Who?

Turns out the whole thing was a dream. Batman got knocked out by a new variant of the Joker formula. When he awakes, who guards the great Batman? Why none other than Harley Quinn! That’s right Harley dragged Bats to safety and watched over him the entire time.

I went back and checked Harley 74 (second to last issue) and there is nothing to do with Batman, so her popping up all of a sudden felt a bit out of place, but then again it really shows the true nature Harley is embracing. She belongs to the good guys now. Batman may still be slow to buy into it, but she did jsut save the Batman.