By Tom King and Mikel Janin
Knock, knock….who’s there? “The War of Jokes and Riddles”, and it’s no laughing matter. Batman # 25 starts a new storyline, but one that is set in the past. It begins about a year after Batman had begun his career. The story pits the Joker versus the Riddler in a war that catches Gotham and Batman in the middle. Writer Tom King gives us a solid story that looks to have contributed to a formative part of Batman’s psyche. It is filled with important events that look like they will have a direct impact on the Dark Knight’s life in the coming months.
King has done some great writing over the past few months for Batman and it looks like we are about to get one of the best stories of the year. It’s starting out that way at least. The story itself focuses mostly on the two “clown princes” of crime as they are set up to do battle against each other. Both the Joker and Riddler are written perfectly and each have equally awesome solo scenes throughout the book. Though the title of the storyline may sound funny, it is immediately obvious that the next few issues will have a high body count. The reader may be especially interested in the way the Joker is being portrayed. There is definitely something very interesting going on with him that not even he is sure what the problem is. It also raises the question of just which Joker we are seeing here. There are three Joker’s running around somewhere and this one doesn’t appear to be the one we see in DC’s The Forge. The Joker that appears in this issue will remind most readers of the Joker from the flashback scenes in The Killing Joke. Whichever one he is, though, he is written as being lost and searching for answers. His dialogue is written so well as he questions himself and his jokes. King also gives readers a very strong Riddler that will be a formidable enemy for the Joker. The Riddler in this story is portrayed as a very strong, confident, and deadly man on a mission. King has written him perfectly. The story is paced tightly and builds over the course of the book. It flows like a rocket being launched into space with explosive stages building until it reaches the zenith. And this is only the first part.
Mikel Janin’s art for this issue is exceptionally strong. He has especially done an outstanding job on the Joker. He has captured the essence of Joker without the laughter. He presents him as miserable, angry, and frustrated as he searches for what he has lost. Janin has written it all over his face. There is something eerie about the Joker when he is not smiling that makes him 100 times scarier. The rest of the characters are drawn just as well. Janin has captured the essence of each of the well-known icons in these pages. There are a number of scenes presented in sequential panels that really give the characters a chance to act which brings the artwork to life with a faux animation. Look for a series of panels with the Joker trying to make a corpse smile to see this effect. There is also an outstanding scene between the Riddler and a group of GCPD officers in a hallway. There’s little to no action, but the dialogue combined with the atmosphere of the hallway and Riddler’s defiant assuredness make for a dramatic series of panels. Although Bruce is narrating the story, Batman is barely in it, but when he makes his entrance it is drawn perfectly. There’s nothing quite like a Dark Knight entrance. This story has some really awesome moments in it and Janin has excelled at rendering each of them dramatically.
Although this issue is only the beginning of the story line it is immediately obvious that it will be an amazing ride. Tom King, without a doubt, knows the characters he is writing and brings them to life convincingly. That paired with Janin’s artwork is making this book a must read. If you are a Batman fan, this issue will stand out in your memory for some time to come. Stop what you are doing and read this book now.