Batman’s Joker War event: 5 ways it changed the DC comic universe

Batman’s Joker War event: 5 ways it changed the DC comic universe

This week, after days of diplomatic work, delegates from around the globe put the final touches on an expansive treaty to put an end to the Joker War, DC’s big summer crossover in the Batman books.

Just kidding, Batman and the Joker punched and kicked and stabbed each other a lot.

In the oversized issue Batman #100, Batman persevered over the Joker in a metaphorical battle for Gotham’s soul. But what did it cost him? And what does it mean for the future of Gotham, and DC’s Gotham City books?

Let’s take a look at what went down, and how things changed for Batman in the future.

Catwoman stole all of Batman’s money, again

Image: James Tynion IV, Jorge Jimenez/DC Comics

You may have heard that part of the Joker’s big plan was to steal all of Bruce Wayne’s money. That’s right, he’s known for years that Bruce Wayne and Batman are the same person, but he just didn’t feel like acting on it until now.

Well, the Joker had a good time dressing up in bat costumes, and his goons certainly appreciated access to all of Wayne Enterprises’ bat-themed technology. But now it’s all over.

Not only has the Joker been defeated and his goons captured, Catwoman — currently in a committed relationship with Batman — stole it all back and gave it to the family of Lucius Fox, CEO of Wayne Enterprises, who seem to have decided to keep the roughly $20 billion and use it for good. We’ll see what comes of that in future issues of Batman.

Punchline, Clownhunter; still around

“I’m the punchline,” snarls Punchline. In her full costume she wears a ripped purple shirt and tights, along with a black jumper, gloves, and pink and red clown makeup, in The Joker 80th Anniversary 100-Page Super Spectacular, DC Comics (2020).

Image: James Tynion IV, Mikel Janín/DC Comics

The breakout character of Tynion’s run on Batman so far has definitely been Punchline, the Joker’s new second in command and a sort of polar opposite of the modern Harley Quinn. A campus troll turned goth clown supervillain, Punchline was captured alongside the rest of the Joker’s forces, but the final moments of Batman #100 we see her using a video address to distance herself from any culpability in her various murders, tortures, and attempts to escape justice.

We know that Punchline’s trial is going to be an event of note in upcoming Batman issues, so she’s not going away any time soon.

Batman #100 also revealed the identity and origin of Clownhunter, a deadly vigilante who preys on Joker henchmen. Teenage orphan Bao Pham specifically blames Batman for not preventing the Joker from killing his parents, and generally for failing to prevent chaos in Gotham while making its citizens complacent enough to rely on him.

Batman can’t bring Bao in, because the work he’s done to protect the good people of his neighborhood means that none of them will corroborate his violence. He tried to convince Bao to get some therapy and stop killing people, but the kid doesn’t seem to have taken it very seriously.

As part of the Joker’s war, he encouraged average citizens of Gotham to put on joker masks and take advantage of the chaos for their own ends. Clownhunter pointed out that in the aftermath those people have simply taken off their masks and disappeared into Gotham’s general population, unpunished. He’s not a big fan of that, and intends to seek them out on a one-kid revenge mission.

There’s a new villain, Ghost-Maker

“The truce is over,” says Ghost-Maker, clad in his grey armor, white robes robes, and shiny helmet, “It’s time for Gotham to meet the Ghost-Maker!” in Batman #100, DC Comics (2020).

Image: James Tynion IV, Jorge Jimenez/DC Comics

Official previews have already teased the new villain Ghost-Maker, a rival Bruce Wayne met when he was traveling around the world and training to become Batman. But we got our first look at him at the end of Batman #100, and he sure is shiny.

Batman decided to let the Joker die

Batman, with a cracked open mask, and the Joker, missing an eye, stare each other down. Then Batman walks away as the Joker protests, “Where are you going? Batman. Come back here. Don’t just walk away form me!” in Batman #100, DC Comics (2020).

Image: James Tynion IV, Jorge Jimenez/DC Comics

And Joker knows he did. And Batman knows Joker knows. And Joker knows Batman knows Joker knows — I’ll stop. At the climax of Batman #300, Harley Quinn (who is, to be fair, the queen of finally ending your relationship with the Joker) decided that she was going to try to force Batman finally stop his endless rivalry. She strapped bombs to both herself and the Joker and ran, pulling the old “you can’t save both of us at the same time” puzzle.

After a bit of consideration, Batman chose her, leaving the Joker to die in the explosion. He didn’t even try to save them both. And sure, Joker still managed to escape, but now he knows that something has changed between the two nemeses.

Also, the Joker still knows that Batman is Bruce Wayne, as well as the secret identities of all the members of the bat-family. There was no comics-style mind wipe at the end of Joker War. So it’ll certainly be interesting to see how long that wrinkle lasts.

Little changes for a big rewind

Batgirl, sans her mask, sits down at a computer console in her clocktower hideout, and puts on her glasses. “Okay,” she says, “It’s time to let everyone know that Oracle is back online,” in Batman #100, DC Comics (2020).

Image: James Tynion IV, Jorge Jimenez/DC Comics

It’s no secret that James Tynion is a fan of the version of the Gotham City of the 1990s and early ’00s. It’s a Batman era that, among other things, was categorized by a large and interconnected cast, which contained a number of central female characters that was somewhat ahead of its time.

Many aspects of that era wound up on the cutting room floor during 2011’s New 52 reboot, and it wouldn’t be off the mark to say that Tynion has spent his career in the Bat-books slowly massaging those details back in. Joker War continues that trend, in a time when many of the books in DC’s Gotham umbrella that don’t feature Batman as a main character are in a state of flux.

Batwoman hasn’t had a solo series since 2018. Batgirl, as well as Batman and the Outsiders, a team book featuring Cassandra Cain/Orphan and Duke Thomas/Signal, are both coming to an end this month. Young Justice, another team book featuring Spoiler and former Robin Tim Drake, and Teen Titans, featuring current Robin Damian Wayne, will close up shop in November.

Joker War didn’t exactly set all all of these characters on the board for fresh moves, but it did make some tweaks. Cassandra Cain and Spoiler both got costume changes that bring them closer to the batfamily. After what feels like eons of calling himself “Ric Grayson,” Nightwing finally got his memory back and is wearing his blue suit again. And in Batman #100 itself, Barbara Gordon sat out the fighting in order to coordinate the rest of Batman’s allies as her Post-Crisis identity of Oracle, world’s greatest hacker.

To see how long those changes stick, and how well they play out through upcoming Batman books, readers will have to stay tuned.