Batman 99 from DC Comics really comes across as a fascinating issue.  Most of it feel like an exposition issue since nothing really happens, but the truth it, it reads more like a chess game plays.  In this chess game we moved pass the pawns and the early moves.  This chess game sets up the power pieces before the final battle begins.  Instead of pawns we follow the knights, rooks and queen as they set up for the final push. 

With Batman 98, the Bat-family reunited for the first time in what seems like ages.  Only this time Harley Quinn tags along.  In Batman 99, most of the issue feels like a ra-ra, let’s get ‘em type speech from none other than Batman.  It goes so far that Batman presents Dick Grayson with his normal Nightwing suit in black and blue instead of the get-up he wore.  Perhaps the coolest part of early story comes from a simple 2/3 page panel with the Bat-family.  The heroes tagged ran from Nightwing, Robin, Red Hood and Batgirl to Signal, Orphan, Spoiler and Harley.  They truly pulled from every aspect of Batman’s gallery.

For those that do not read Catwoman, one panel sets up Catwoman 25’s story perfectly.  The panel Batman 99 uses spins directly into the latest issue.  Think about picking up Catwoman 25 to just flip through.  It contains some MAJOR developments that affect the story here.

Batman 99 – Knight to Joker 1

Joker is ready for the showdown
It all comes to a head in Batman 99

You know who the great heroes are when they know they are about to walk into a trap but do so anyway.  Batman knows where Joker is holed up, and he knows that Joker knows Batman will come.  Of course, batman needs to arrive with flare.  Page 16 of the comic is a single panel, but the panel screams to become a trademark poster.  The art and imagery of the page perfectly define Batman and the current attitude.  He strolls straight at us in full power and confidence.  The trap awaits, yet a smirk adorns his features begging Joker to bring his A game.

One small catch remains, however; Joker dons the title of greatest of all Bat-villains.  Not only that but Joker can compete for greatest villain in all of comics and likely win.  Joker knows what to expect and for him to be ready is a given.

But before Batman can reach Joker, he receives a flesh wound on his shoulder from a gun.  Who wields the gun?  None other than Ms. Harley Quinn.  The confrontation between Harley and Batman ends quickly, but the storytellers do an amazing job cramming so much into the few panels.  The job the writers do showing where Harley’s mindset is compared with Batman’s is incredible.  Harley of course wants Joker dead.  Batman of course doesn’t despite the argument Harley makes.  The end of the confrontation truly seals both the relationship between Bats and Harley and shows who truly holds the power.  Then again it would not surprise me if she still needs to play a part in this tale.

Let us not also forget we have the mysterious anti-Joker clown wreaking havoc as well.

Batman 99 – The Final Pages

The final pages contain two surprises that will make your jaws drop.  While I will not spoil them here, let’s just say two things return you do not expect.  Once piece you knew would come back, but maybe you forgot about.  The second piece belongs to a pawn thought removed from the table but wasn’t.  Only Joker could stoop so low!

Grab Batman 99 (and Catwoman 25) and enjoy the final set up moves.  The game and the Joker War come to its conclusion in Batman 100!