Ricky Church reviews Batman #26…
“THE WAR OF JOKES AND RIDDLES” part two! The Riddler and The Joker escalate their bloody feud, and the villains of Gotham City are forced to choose sides or be caught in the crossfire! It’s up to Batman to push himself to the limit and keep innocent citizens out of harm’s way.
Tom King ramps up the brewing war between The Joker and The Riddler as the two rogues begin their recruitment of Gotham City’s nefarious villains. Batman #26 continues the build-up well and has some good moments with Joker and Riddler that show how serious they’re taking their feud, though not much really happens in the story with the exception of their “I’m coming to get you” moments and meetings with other criminals.
King’s portrayal of Joker and Riddler is, much like Batman #25, the best aspect of this issue. He not only captures their essential characteristics, but adds something new to them. The Joker presented here is different from his usual self; rather than being the all-knowing master planner, he’s very uncertain in his goals and what he wants to do next aside from the end goal of killing Riddler. This makes him arguably even more unpredictable and deadly as he’ll do anything to stop being bored and find something funny again.
With Riddler, King retains some of the same quirks from Scott Snyder’s portrayal in Zero Year, showing that while he may not be as much of a physical match as other villains, his intellect is what gets him ahead. Batman #26 shows a different side of Riddler, one that is driven enough that he’s not bothering quite as much with his usual riddles or mind games. It’s certainly an interesting side of Riddler to explore, one that is shown in a nice callback to 1989’s Batman that shows the state of mind Nygma is now in.
It’s a little risky that this is now the second issue where Batman only briefly appears as King seems to be putting him on the sidelines for the storyline. ‘The War of Jokes and Riddles’ takes place just after Batman’s first year on the job, though, and shows how the Dark Knight’s hubris at believing he can change Gotham so easily comes back to bite him. It’s an interesting story move to examine Batman’s failings as a superhero during such a tumultuous time, but should hopefully pay off.
While most of the story aspects are interesting, nothing really advances a whole lot here. We get a sense of how Joker and Riddler are recruiting other villains, particularly a cool scene between Riddler and Poison Ivy, but beyond that not much happens. What drags the issue down as well is the fact it literally ends on the same beat as Batman #25: Batman commenting on the loss of life in their war and hinting at which sides the villains take with even the same type of splash pages to boot (one also has to question how Batman’s entire rogues gallery could be established within the very first year).
Mikel Janin’s art is well done, though. His take on Joker is creepy and the most memorable moment is when the clown attempts to smile in a variety of ways, showing some very nice facial work from Janin in each panel. And even though it does end on the same type of beat, Janin’s splashes with Riddler and Joker’s teams, with a map of Gotham acting as a backdrop, is also illustrated nicely. Taken in combination with June Chung’s colours, Batman #26 is a vibrant issue.
King escalates the war between Joker and Riddler nicely, showing how the pair of them think and plan differently in their attacks against each other and especially their recruitment process. ‘The War of Jokes and Riddles’ is taking shape interestingly, but it’s a shame that the issue repeats the same ending as the previous one. Still, from the look of it there’s much to be excited for.