- Flashback story to the days after Zero Year
- The ultimate Batman villain "Who Would Win?"
- Tom King and Mikel Janin take us back in time effortlessly
- JOKER FROWNING! (Think about how weird that sounds for a minute)
- Riddler is still badass after Zero Year
- It's mostly a set-up issue.
- Are GCPD guards really THAT dumb?
- The art is a little less detailed than normal
"The War of Jokes and Riddles" Part 1
Unbelievably, it’s been twelve months already since Tom King started his astounding Batman odyssey. In that time, we have seen the return of Hugo Strange and Psycho Pirate, the spectacular rise and profoundly tragic fall of a new “Dynamic Duo”, an epic mission to Santa Prisca with Batman’s handpicked “Suicide Squad” and an equally epic encounter in Gotham with a vengeful Bane. In addition, we have gotten more pieces of the “Rebirth” puzzle, as Batman and the Flash investigated “the Button.” But, perhaps most significantly, we have seen the Batman/Catwoman relationship taken to new heights. The crescendo of this came last issue, when, as an almost perfect exclamation point to this exciting first year, Bruce Wayne asked Selina Kyle to marry him.
So, what better way to kick off year 2 than by going back in time. It is finally time to tell the story that we have only seen hinted at. It is time at last for “The War of Jokes and Riddles.” The overall idea , as I’m sure you’ve figured out from the title, is that the Joker and the Riddler are going to war. But, that’s not what makes this issue so fascinating. This issue actually explores the “build-up” events leading to the war.
As such, it is a window into an “unexplored” area in the Batman continuity, namely the period right after the end of Zero Year. The Riddler has been incarcerated since the end of the “Zero Year” Event. It has been one year since the emergence of Batman and Joker, it seems, has lost the ability to laugh. And solving puzzles means nothing to the Riddler anymore.
Joker is trying everything to get his laugh back, including auditioning stand-up comedians and then killing them as they fail, leaving a pile of bodies in front of the stage. In a darkly comic twist, the next comic in line must move the body of the comic before him when he starts his routine. But, no mirth is to be found for the Joker, even killing male and female cops and breaking his neck in car crash bring him no joy. He sits in his office and broods about his situation.
Riddler, for his part, has been helping the GCPD while in prison with any little puzzle they can’t solve. One day, they show him a map with locations the Joker has attacked. They want Riddler to find his headquarters. Without warning, he attacks the cop in the cell, stabbing him 26 times, once for each letter of the Alphabet. Riddler, it turns out, has been scheming,. He made friends with a guard and asked him a series of seemingly harmless questions about the other guards in the jail and their families. Apparently, this idiot guard had NO PROBLEM answering ALL of his questions. As such, he makes his escape by reciting the names of all of the guards’ children as he walks out the door.
Riddler has solved the Joker’s puzzle and located his headquarters. Once there, he finds the Joker on the top floor of the building. He has brought a bomb with him. He explains to Joker that he feels the same way as Joker does about Batman and proposes an alliance. Instead, Joker SHOOTS HIM and steals his bomb.
After Joker leaves, Batman crashes through the window and finds the dying Riddler. He tells Batman that Joker stole his bomb. Batman, assuming Riddler will not survive, leaves him to chase after Joker, who he loses in the chaos following the shooting. Riddler it turns out does not die, but rather drags himself to safety, after clamping his hand over the wound and SQUEEZING TO STOP THE BLOOD FLOW!
Batman’s failure to capture either of them allows the war to erupt. A panel is shown foreshadowing the war, in which we are shown villains pairing off against one another. It looks like just about every major bat-villain will be part of this one. I think this is gonna be a wild ride.
At the end of the issue, we learn that this is all being framed as Bruce confessing these events to Selina, which he says he has to do before they take their next step together.
Tom King has shown off a new part of his ability with this issue. Although Tom King is the undisputed master of the “Rebirth” era of Batman, he did not write the Dark Knight at all during the New 52 days that this story takes place in. That he is able to so effortlessly take us back to that period is a huge compliment to his ability and the research he has done on the character. Also, Tom King actually made me feel almost sorry for the Joker. It’s very weird and almost difficult to see the character without his trademark smile. In fact, for most of the issue, the Joker is FROWNING! Also, I love that fact that Tom King has seen fit to continue the “Riddler as a badass” theme that Scott Snyder began during Zero Year. It great to see both of these stalwart villains get a fresh look and attitude.
Art this issue is handled by Mikel Janin, and although it is well done, it is a bit of a change from last issue’s art by David Finch. I think, however, it was the right call. The less defined pencils and the muted color palate combine to make the art somehow look “older.” It is a fantastic effect, due to an incredible effort by the entire art team.
IN THE END: This issue contains the first shots of a much larger war. Joker and Riddler look poised to tear Gotham, and each other apart, with Batman caught in the middle. This is one of those storylines that makes me glad Batman comes out every two weeks.