By Daniel Vlasaty
DC, man, you're killing me with all these "wars" and "events" and on and on and on. This is the ever-increasing problem I've been having with superhero comics as of late, especially those from DC. They're all trying to do too much. And in the process, we're losing little bits and pieces of the characters. We're losing the things we love about these characters to – what I'm going to call – the Hollywood movie mentality in comics right now. Big stories with action and energy but not much else. What ever happened to focusing on the smaller things. What ever happened to character development. Not everything has to be END OF THE WORLD motherfucking huge. Not everything has to be earth shattering. But I digress.
Batman #29 is part 4 of The War on Jokes and Riddles. And I think it’s safe to say that, overall, I haven’t particularly liked or disliked this storyline. The “war” part has been kind of meh. And in all honesty, I feel like the Joker and Riddler are both basically played-out at this point. They’re boring. They’ve been done over and over and over. Little tweaks here and there to make them relevant still. But like with most superhero comic books, we all know what the outcome is going to be. It’ll look touch and go all the way up to the very end but then something will happen, some little weakness will become visible, and the good guy will prevail. This is nothing new. This is pretty much the point of these kinds of books. And I know that but that doesn’t mean we have to give in and just accept that to be the only truth. That doesn’t mean superhero storytelling can’t grow as a genre. Can’t become something else, something new and fresh and better.
Anyway, enter Tom King. A man who is bringing these stories back down to the characters. A man who is zeroing in on the people living these stories, fighting these wars, whatever. This issue felt like a pause in the grand scheme of things. A quiet dinner party between billionaire, a clown, and a, uh, riddler. Bruce Wayne loses the cape and the cowl here in an attempt to use his other superpower – his money – to solve this problem, end this war, and save Gotham City. His plan is to hear both sides out and make a decision on who he should back based on their arguments. The idea being that since neither side seems capable of winning this “war” where they stand now. They’re at a stalemate and Bruce Wayne knows that the only way he’s going to end this war is to help one side win it.
It’s smart. And I think it shows how smart of a person Bruce Wayne is. But I didn’t care about him one way or the other while reading this issue. He’s just a catalyst to move this issue forward. What I liked about this is we see both the Joker’s and the Riddler’s motivations. We’re allowed to see them as people. Not as these cardboard cutouts of “villains.” Not the cliches they’ve somewhat become. I liked that. I liked seeing the Joker’s more subdued and contemplative side. I liked getting a better glimpse at what’s really going on in the Riddler’s head. I liked having a moment to breathe through all the action, action, action. Tom King does character development better than most people working in comics these days.
Mikel Janin’s art is clean and solid. It's more subdued here to fit the tone of the book. In all honesty, I’m not usually huge on super digital art but I think it works here. I really liked this issue’s simple layouts and the way the story unfolds over the course of a traditional French nine-course meal, each course laid out on the top of the pages. There are some repeating panels, which is another thing I don’t usually like. But again, I didn’t hate it here. I think it works in a story where there is not much movement. And this whole issue take place at Bruce Wayne’s dinner table. It’s a simple look and feel.
I know I rag on superhero books often. But I do like them. I really do. I think it’s just the nature of a comic book fan. To talk shit. To break down every little piece of something I had nothing to do with. Batman’s always been a favorite of mine, but it’s one that I had started to grow bored with. Again, until Tom King. He might not be telling the best stories, but he’s telling them in interesting ways. He’s getting below the surface of all the shit. He’s breaking overdone characters down and making them interesting again. And that’s perfectly okay with me.