Publisher: DC Comics
Released: December 19th 2017
Issues: Batman 25-32
Batman: The War of Jokes and Riddles is a fantastic sounding concept for this series. I love the idea of the Joker and the Riddler starting a war between each other. Frankly, I’ve always felt that we needed to see more interactions between all of the Batman villains. After all, while Gotham isn’t small, is certainly has more than its fair share of supervillians. Which should theoretically mean that they’d be bumping heads pretty often.
This volume was graciously provided to us by the creative team of Tom King (Grayson, The Vision, The Sheriff of Babylon), and Mikel Janin (Justice League Dark). Together they make a pretty fantastic team, and this was certainly one of my favorite Batman plots in a while.
This volume has a lot of great things going for it. Along with the aforementioned war between the Joker and the Riddler, there’s the core reason for said war. Batman is still retired (I say still because I’m pretty sure everyone other than himself knew it wasn’t going to last) and things have been off for our villains ever since. The Riddler has found less joy in his riddles. More alarmingly, the Joker can’t laugh. Not won’t, can’t. I’ve seen this sort of concept before with the Joker, and every time I’ve ended up loving where they went with it. This time was no exception.
In a sense, this war was inevitable. Not just because there were too many villains in a small space, but because there were too many bored villains in a small space. With Batman retired they had lost something that made them who they are. It’s been a running theme for the Batman series, and I love that it was more or less acknowledged here.
Once the lines were drawn in the sand each villain was pretty much forced to pick a side or face the consequences (the most notable exception to this rule being Catwoman, whom we could say took Batman’s side in this fight). On the Riddler’s side we have Poison Ivy, Killer Croc, and Harvey Dent (there are others of course, but the rest of them don’t really warrant naming). On the Joker’s side we have Mr. Freeze, Scarface, and Cobblepot. Now I’ll admit that the majority of these choices make sense, but there are a few exceptions for me, and perhaps these are showing my biases. I don’t see Mr. Freeze picking either side, unless he had a good reason (such as one of them having their hands on Nora, or having tried to hurt her in the past. That would sway him pretty fast). Likewise I don’t see Ivy as being terribly willing to work with them. She doesn’t really like people in the best of days. Riddler could have found a reason to talk her into it, but I would have loved to know the reason (did he know the location of an exotic plant? Did he talk her into this for Harley’s sake?). I wish these sorts of conversations had not happened off screen, but hey, what can you do?
A new villain picks up the mantle for this volume as well (well, new for this continuity at least); Kite Man. Yep, you’ve got that right. Kite Man threw his name into the ring. He does so for some pretty personal reasons, most of which involving his hatred for the Riddler. Believe it or not this small time villain actually plays a pretty pivotal role in the series, at least for now. So don’t overlook him.
I was worried that I wouldn’t like the conclusion to this plot, since I loved the concept of it so much, but I found myself pleasantly surprised. Everything is wrapped up, with no annoying “but why?!” moments to be found. The interactions between the Joke and the Riddler were superb all the way to the end, as was the conclusion to their individual turmoil. I’ll admit I’m curious to see where they could possibly head to next after this. Sure there’s the Catwoman plot still, but if I’m being honest I’m still not sure how I feel about that. I’m hoping that more exposure to the concept will help me decide that one.