By Daniel Vlasaty
Batman’s back and he’s fighting in a new “war.” This poor guy, he just can’t catch a break. He just goes from one villain to the next. One war to the next. And when he runs out of villains to go through, the cycle just starts itself over again. This time around it’s the War of Jokes and Riddles. So obviously the two villains he’s going to go face-to-face with are the Riddler and the Joker. I know a lot of people hate the Joker as a character, and I’m wondering if that’s just because he’s getting kind of played out. If that’s the case, I can understand. Because I can see that. Personally, I’ve always liked the Joker. But I can see how he’s getting overused in storyline after storyline after storyline. There is an interesting (kind of) twist to his character here so I am going to hold off judgement on how his part in this “war” is going to play-out. I used to review every issue of Batman for this site. And I’ve always read Batman. Sometimes it’s bad and sometimes it’s good. Although after issue #18 I stopped reviewing it because I was basically just writing the same review over and over again every month. But I didn’t stop reading it. And now we’re back with issue #25 and here’s a review of it.
Basically, this issue of Batman is setting up the new story arc – The War of Jokes and Riddles. Batman narrates the whole thing and he is speaking from some point and time after the events of this book have taken place. The story he’s telling is about how the Riddler and the Joker got together to kill him. Once and for all – I guess, even though I’m pretty sure they’re never not trying to kill Batman. It’s just what they do. But these are events that he was not himself present for. He knows everything he knows because of his dogged determination for truth and answers and justice. I guess. That and the fact that he tells us that he’s gone over all the evidence himself. He scoured the locations where things took place. If there were recordings, he watched them. If there were witnesses, he interviewed them. He talked to everyone he could talk to. He did it all himself. Because he’s fucking Batman and he’s the greatest detective in the world.
Tom King uses his skills as a writer to dig deep into these characters’ minds by using Batman as a buffer, filtering everything through him and his narration. He knows how they think and work and how they’re going to act. What they need and want and what they’re willing to do to get there. It’s kind of an interesting way to tell the story. Batman’s narration takes us one step away from it as it unfolds before our eyes. There is a technique (if you want to call it that) in writing called Show, don’t tell. Which legit means exactly what it says. A writer should get the story out by showing it happen, as opposed to telling the reader what is happening through exposition and summary. Now I understand that it’s a little different with a comic book than, say, a novel. Because with a comic we’re already being shown the action through the art. But I never felt like the narration hindered the “showing” part of the story. and I’m usually against comics with heavy narration. But I thought it worked here.
I also like that this seems like it might be more focused on the villains than it is on Batman. Both the Riddler and the Joker have their own reasons for doing what they’re doing here. And it goes further than the simple bad guys vs good guy. They have real motivation that brings it to a more personal level for them. And the end results could possibly fundamentally change them and their feelings toward their chosen trades. I don’t want to give too much away. But I’ll just say that if King really takes this idea and runs with it, it could make this to be a really interesting story arc. We shall see.
Mikel Janin does the pencils and inks in this issue and June Chung does the colors. I thought the art was good. It was realistic and slick and shiny. The shadows were good and heavy, like what you’d expect out of Gotham, especially the scene where the Riddler is escaping prison – I thought the shadow work was great in this scene. I feel like this art is perfect for the tone and feel of this storyline. If it had been a more loose and cartoon-y style I think that would take away from the moodiness of the book. I have a feeling this arc is going to get pretty dark and as long as Janin and Chung continue to team up on the art through its duration there shouldn’t be any problems in this area. It’s interesting to see the Joker go so long without smiling, and you can really get a good sense of all the bullshit he’s going through, the internal struggle or whatever he’s facing, from the scowl and all the lines on his face.
Listen, I understand this is a Batman book. And there are two types of people when it comes to Batman books. Some people are going to love it and some are going to hate it. that’s just how it is with a book like this. And I get that. I can see it from both sides. Because if you’ve been reading Batman for any length of time you know how these things usually turn out. They fight, they fight, they fight and then Batman inevitably saves the day, locks the bad guy up, and then it’s only a matter of time before they either escape or are released for whatever reason and the whole thing starts over again. I know that going into books like this. I know things will happen but very few of them will have a lasting effect on anything. But sometimes it’s just about the ride. That’s fine too.