The last issue of Batman saw Gotham’s most vile choose sides, boost the body count and continue to make Batman’s life hell. Now, as “The War of Jokes & Riddles” rages on “an unlikely criminal becomes the pivotal key to its potential resolution.” That’s right, it’s time to (sky)dive headfirst into depravity and mayhem with an issue focusing on the one, the only… Kite-Man?!
After you read Batman #27, you’ll get it. You’ll get why a frivolous, hang-gliding villain who first appeared in 1960 — not Bane, not the Riddler and not the Joker — has become the the most lionized and now poignant character in King’s Batman run. Kite Man, real name Charles “Chuck” Brown. (“I used to read the comics,” says the Joker during a phone call with Kite Man regarding his shared namesake with Peanuts protagonist, Charlie Brown. “I thought they were funny.”) Kite Man, whose chief talent isn’t supersanity or tactical genius or drug-fueled vigor but being a really competent hang-glider. Kite Man, defeated in a single panel by Batman back in Batman #14. So uh, why should we care about a Kite Man-centric issue when there’s a Joker and Riddler war tearing apart Gotham?
Because in Batman #27, King gives us Kite Man’s Killing Joke. A definitive Kite-Man opus. Although King has said in interviews that he’s wanted “The War of Jokes & Riddles” story arc to aggrandize Riddler into more main-event-worthy status as a Batman adversary, his characterization for KM here soars past anything he’s done with Nigma. This coming from someone who feared if he heard “Kite Man, hell yeah!” one more time it’d replace “Yo quiero Taco Bell” or “You are the weakest link, goodbye” in catch phrase perdition, too.
King deftly floats Kite Man from Batman to the Riddler to the Joker and back again in a narrative that puts us directly into the D-list villain’s shoes and humanizes him in very short, very efficacious order. True, KM’s might not sound like the most reputable or penetrating lens from which to view, but it ends up as one that’s so unique and so fun to read that you’ll wonder why King didn’t give us this story sooner. I never thought I’d be saying this — but Kite Man’s interactions with Batman and Joker and Riddler and his relation to the overarching narrative may very well end up being the highlight of this entire story arc for me.
The art is no slouch either, handled in this issue by penciller/inker Clay Mann (whose work I’ve enjoyed previously on Ninjak), Danny Miki and John Livesay (also on inks) and colorist Gabe Eltaeb.
Mann’s already solid art has improved since his Ninjak days. His characters have always been lifelike and animated but could sometimes exhibit stiffness, be it from lack of connective body language between panels or cramped camera angles — this issue, though, is incredibly clean and fluid from start to finish. It’s also chockful of memorable scenes, be it the opening one with eye-level closeups of Gotham City highrise gargoyles full-tilting into a Batman interrogation or a later scene where KM and Batman meet again atop a skyscraper, with an adjacent highrise’s windows forming a beautiful, reflective grid to the two page splash that shows the War taking place and KM caught in the middle. On a lighter note, most of the issue sees KM in a bright blue, pin-striped suit that’s not quite dapper but just classy enough for a guy like Chuck Brown.
Is it good?
Batman #27 is The Killing Joke for Kite Man. Which is every bit as ridiculous, impressive and thoroughly enjoyable as it sounds. Hell yeah, Tom King.