“The War of Jokes and Riddles” Conclusion
Writer: Tom King
Artist: Mikel Janin
Warning: Spoilers Ahead!
“The War of Jokes and Riddles” has reached its climax as Batman takes on both the Riddler and the Joker in a duel of wits and will.
This issue has me torn personally. On the one hand, it provides some twists that actually improves the previous issues. On the other hand, the ending of the war is a little trite.
Upon opening the issue, we are promised a Batman versus Riddler and Joker fight. Honestly, that is not terribly exciting. We know that Batman can easily out-fight both of those guys with one hand tied behind his back. Fortunately, Tom King subverts our expectations of the issue and it turns out that it is not a fist fight, but a crescendo to Riddler’s scheming to break Batman mentally. It is a simple, but brilliant twist. It also excuses some of the Riddler’s behavior in the previous issues.
In past reviews, I derided King for turning Edward Nygma into a Joker-esque serial killer. But in actuality, it was an act that was a part of a controlled plan. So the Riddler is not just some generic psychotic murderer. He has been cool and controlled the whole time. That is a breath of relief to fans of the Riddler’s characterization. Nygma may kill, but he is not a chaotic, murderous force of nature like the Joker. King sort of pulls the rug out from under readers and forces them to re-contextualize the Riddler’s actions throughout the story line.
And what more can be said of Mikel Janin’s brilliant art? It looks great in both the fantastical settings, as well as the more mundane ones. The most impressive feat of his art skills is actually not anything superhero-related. The best instance of Janin’s art is the double splash page featuring dozens of different profile shots of civilians that were killed during the war. The idea that Janin made a distinctive, new pedestrian face for each person shows the intense level of detail that he dedicates to each panel. That splash page would make a lesser artist cry.
With that being said, King’s climax is lacking. Major spoilers warning, but in a fit of rage, Batman almost kills the Riddler. That twist is nothing new. We see Batman tempted to kill his villains almost every other story line. It is repetitive and boring. It is understandable that Batman was mad because the Riddler orchestrated a lot of senseless deaths just to prove a point. But, we have seen it all before.
However, it is hard to focus on that too much, because King flips the script on readers yet again. The entire story was told in flashback by Bruce Wayne to Selina Kyle to show what an imperfect being he is. So while the actual plot point is boring, the emotional drama that is mined from it is not. King takes it as and utilizes it as an example of what an interesting and complex relationship Batman has with Catwoman.
This issue feels divisive. It has really high high points and really low low points. Fortunately, King provides enough twists to keep the comic fresh-feeling and emotionally resonant.
Images provided by DC Entertainment