Batman #26 brings us the second part of “The War of Jokes & Riddles”. After The Riddler was shot in the stomach and left for dead by an uncharacteristically humorless Joker at the conclusion of last issue, what will the criminal mastermind do to strike back against the Clown Prince of Crime? And what can Batman do to impede impending war?
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The Joker continues his killing spree across Gotham, one where even innocent families (women and children included) are not exempt. Also, if not even dick jokes can make the Joker laugh, what possibly can?
We find out the answer as to what brings back the Joker’s smile, but not before we catch up with the Riddler, who, in a scene eerily reminiscent of this Jack Nicholson Joker scene from 1989’s Batman, recovers from last issue’s gunshot wound under the care of a black market physician. And then gives himself a tattoo (more like self-mutilation) that’s eerily reminiscent of Heath Ledger’s Joker from The Dark Knight. Is writer Tom King trying to tell us something here?
As is custom, Mikel Janin’s pencils and inks alongside June Chung’s colors continue to amaze. There’s a bathroom mirror scene, an eight-panel-grid that runs through a metamorphic spectrum of Joker emotions that once again displays Janin’s adroitness for physiognomy, an impressive park scene where June Chung’s colors make the verdant surroundings flourish from the page (does that give you enough hint as to who Riddler’s first recruit is in the looming war?) and a double-page spread at the issue’s climax showing the respective armies of each villain that’s worthy of hanging on your wall.
Tom King’s writing remains strong for the most part, although I foresee some readers taking umbrage with the deliberately decompressed pacing and the Riddler’s divergence from the more calculating, cerebral (yet physically frail) iterations we’re more familiar with. For the second issue in a row we’re given piecemeal crumbs of Batman and Commissioner Gordon as they arrive at crimescenes just a bit too late and although there are some developments for both the Joker and Riddler’s burgeoning factions, the eponymous “War of Jokes and Riddles” still seems a few issues away from truly starting. As always, it’s difficult to critique King’s choices, especially the conspicuous comparisons he makes regarding the Riddler to film Jokers, without seeing what the overarching narrative brings when all is said and done.
Is It Good?
Batman #26 is a pretty good second installment of the “War of Jokes & Riddles” storyline that continues to put an interesting spin on two of Batman’s most infamous villains with an air of ominousness and intrigue looming above it all. Although we’re given some interesting developments between Joker and the Riddler, the war still seems like it’s in the build-up stages, which ultimately doesn’t give Batman much to do but bemoan for the second issue in a row.