Review by Win Wiacek
Designed to tie-in with a videogame release (and thus deliciously free of extraneous subplot) this is a rare Bat-yarn which can be accessibly consumed by all: a cunning and compelling case of heroes vs. impending chaos.
David Hine’s plot begins when yuppies and bored Gothamites take up the latest recreational drug and sporting craze of the spoiled and over-privileged: snorting non-lethal, metamorphic Joker Juice before going wilding through the city. These transformed Jokerz indulge in liberating, conscience-free vandalism, chaos and carnage until the Juice wears off. It’s a rush but nobody really gets hurt. Not really, truly, fatally hurt…
However, the recurring, ever-expanding Mad Mobs are actually being orchestrated by a hidden King Joker; someone not submerged in temporary insanity, but rather following an appalling secret agenda. As new Batman Dick Grayson, Oracle and Gotham’s police struggle to maintain order without bloodshed, tempers are starting to fray and when a young cop is wounded in a scuffle, he responds with deadly force.
King Joker is plagued with memories of the night he was an unwilling witness and a collateral casualty in a terrifying clash between the true Harlequin of Hate and the Dynamic Duo. Of course, the heroes rushed him to hospital and his life was saved from the toxins sprayed on the rooftops during that particular murder-spree, but in their haste the heroes missed his girlfriend. She died in ghastly agony, all alone.
A new factor then weighs in: an Impostor Batman who calls on decent, hard-working citizens to take back their city from the drug-addled Jokerz. Soon there is open warfare in Gotham and the Caped Crimebuster is forced into a desperate experiment: sampling Joker Juice to discover exactly what he’s up against.
Hine escalates the tension until the entire city is poised on the edge of a bloodbath. Batman is frantically hoping he can take out both Impostors before the city becomes a living Hell on Earth, and still has to locate the man behind the manufactured insanity.
Scott McDaniel, inked by Andy Owen, is an accomplished old hand at the ensuring his layouts prioritise the fast pace and action, and doesn’t slack off when drawing the crowd scenes required to convince that Gotham is under threat.
This is a splendid, stripped down, all-action thriller that should delight any fights ‘n’ tights fanatic.