“The War of Jokes and Riddles,” Part 1
Writer: Tom King
Artist: Mikel Janin
Minor Spoilers Ahead!
Despite a huge cliffhanger in the previous issue, writer Tom King took time to flashback to a Year Two story where the Riddler and the Joker have a giant showdown.
King has been master of laying the groundwork for stories. “The War of Jokes and Riddles” has been subtly teased a few times throughout his run and is now finally coming into fruition. As for the premise of the war, the Joker has become aimless and cannot find the humor in anything because of Batman. The Riddler, on the other hand, is coming off a career high thanks to his Zero Year scheme. They are on a trajectory where they eventually collide and it is interesting. King subverts reader’s expectations for the reason the Riddler and Joker fight. It is different, yet makes sense in the context of the story. King’s depiction of both the Joker and Riddler is also different, but a logical build-up from past writers’ interpretations of the characters.
Not to take anything away from artist Mikel Janin’s amazingly lush art. His attention to detail and paint-like quality elevates the script. It creates shadowy, gloomy atmosphere without looking ugly and gritty. Furthermore, we are treated to a one-page teaser of what is to come in the war of jokes and riddles, which features nearly every major member of Batman’s rogues gallery. If the teaser is any indication of what Janin is going to draw, then we will be in for a visual delight for the coming months. However, as great as Janin’s art is, it is not perfect. His Riddler is a bit too bulky for my tastes. This is supposed to take place a year after the events of “Zero Year,” yet the Riddler looks like he has been hitting the gym pretty hard. Also, Janin’s version of the Riddler is surprisingly stripped of any outlandish costume details. There are no question marks, no purple mask, and only one appearance of the trademark bowler hat. Combined with the uncharacteristic body type, Janin’s Riddler looks like just some guy in a green suit.
Further exasperating the problem is King’s stance on the Riddler murdering people. Scott Snyder’s version of the Riddler-the version that King is using-never directly killed. But here, he brutally stabs a person with little provocation. It makes his characterization feel a little divorced from the most recent incarnation. There is also a Riddler moment where he makes a very sloppy, stupid mistake. Some can argue that he was being egotistically cocky, but it just makes him look really dumb in light of how coldly calculating he was in the rest of the story.
The opening chapter of King’s latest mega-arc starts off well. It has a promising premise, great art, and a sharp script. The concerns that drag down the book is mostly personal preference and are relatively minor.
Images courtesy of DC Entertainment