So far “The War Of Jokes And Riddles” has been all about set-up as both Riddler and Joker assemble their respective armies before the war truly begins. Through all that set-up it has been fascinating to see how Batman continues to be several steps behind the two biggest threats in his Rogues Gallery at this point in his superhero career. Even with the past setting giving some predictability to character fates it has not taken away from the tension created by how Joker and Riddler are going about battling each other. How will “The War Of Jokes And Riddles” change the future of Gotham City? Let’s find out with Batman #28.
Writer: Tom King
Artist: Mikel Janin
Colorist: June Chung
Story Rating: 6 Night Girls out of 10
Art Rating: 9 Night Girls out of 10
Overall Rating: 7.5 Night Girls out of 10
Synopsis: With the war between Joker and Riddler wrecking havoc across Gotham City, Commissioner Gordon arranges separate meetings with Joker and Riddler.
For each meeting Gordon is forced to do specific things. To meet with Riddler he must come with only boxers on. To meet with Joker he is forced to put on a prisoner uniform and a black bag over his head.
After doing both things he is walked through Gotham City to meet with each villain at different times in the day.
Later that night Gordon reveals that both Joker and Riddler want Batman to be brought to them to end the war. When Batman asks Gordon how he responded to each of them Gordon stays silent.
Batman believes they should strike both sides. Gordon says it is not that easy as Joker has wired bombs across Gotham City and Riddler has civilians taken as hostages everywhere.
Gordon says they aren’t repeating the “Joke Factory” incident again and he has called the Feds to help contain and end the war.
As he continues to talk Gordon notices that Batman has left.
Elsewhere Catwoman turns Joker’s latest offer to join him down by throwing Kite Man out the window of a building. Batman catches Kite Man and puts him on a rooftop.
In the present Bruce remembers how Selina told him at the time that she was at that apartment to take the Maroni Crime Family fortune they stole from her. Selina reveals that it was a lie, much to Bruce’s surprise.
Continuing the story we see that as Catwoman takes what is in the Maroni Family safe she explains how all the other villains Joker and Riddler have recruited are unsuccessful criminals. Catwoman and Batman kiss and spend the night together. When Batman wakes up in the morning Catwoman is already gone with the fortune in the safe.
Later that afternoon Deathstroke and Deadshot have their sniper guns pointed at one another from different rooftops. They both fire their sniper guns at the same time, cancelling out each other’s shot.
Over the course of the next five days Deathstroke and Deadshot would battle one another across Gotham City. Batman did his best to stop them but in each clash the two mercenaries he was only able to try to limit the amount of casualties rather than participate in the fights.
After five days of shootings and bombings Batman was finally able to corner Deathstroke and Deadshot. Batman uses the triple-threat battle to his advantage and is finally able to knock both Deathstroke and Deadshot out at the same time.
Later that night Gordon reveals to Batman that while he was fighting Deathstroke and Deadshot the Feds two special force units to try to take down each side of the war.
Joker’s forces ended up discovering them and took them all out. He then left a message for Gordon mentioning he couldn’t find any camouflage to wear but did find a lot of blood.
Meanwhile Riddler called Gordon to mention he is ready to clean up all the “mess.”
As Batman and Gordon ponder what to do next Bruce tells Selina, in the present, that Deadshot was in a near death state after Batman took him out but was miraculously saved by the doctors. End of issue.
The Good: As enjoyable as the interlude issue spotlighting Kite Man was returning to the main conflict between Joker and Riddler was refreshing. Batman #28 is exactly what we are here to get and having an interlude issue only two issues after the story started did kill some of the momentum. Thankfully Tom King is able to quickly recover the momentum lost by showing us what Gotham City looks like after a war ravaged the city.
Seeing how the war between Joker and Riddler has ravaged Gotham City is where Batman #28 was at its strongest. The battle between Deadshot and Deathstroke is the best showcase of this. The narration King gives Bruce to explain what is going on in these scenes help elevate the battle between the two best mercenaries in the DC Universe a sense that it is a war. It got to the point that it look like Deadshot and Deathstroke started to have their own personal war with each other as they tried to prove who was the best.
Seeing how Batman over the course of the five days Deadshot and Deathstroke went to war was only able to save people says a lot. It shows that the battle was more than just a straight up fight as it also highlighted the struggle for who had the upper hand between Joker and Riddler. Batman finally getting the chance to fight Deadshot and Deathstroke furthered the burden the Dark Knight had on his shoulders during this War of Jokes and Riddles. That burden all came out with how he almost killed Deadshot, especially as we learned if it weren’t for some great doctors Deadshot would be dead.
That sense of burden that Batman feels gave more weight to Commissioner Gordon’s decisions throughout this issue. From giving into the respective requests Joker and Riddler made in order to hold a meeting to calling in special agents from the government to help, it is clear Gordon is at the end of his rope. As much as Batman feels on the defensive at the moment it is Gordon who does have a sense of helplessness. At this point all Gordon can do is try to use the remaining resources he has. Now that those resources have run dry we do have to wonder what Gordon will do with Joker and Riddler’s request for Batman’s head becoming the only option to end the war.
All of this further paints the picture of the overall War of Jokes and Riddles being something that changed the future for Gotham City. That sense of change makes it so that even if we have an idea of the outcome. With how intense things got between Deadshot and Deathstroke alone, it does leave you wondering what will happen when all the villains Joker and Riddler assembled clash as well. That clash will possibly what draws Batman out in the open like Joker and Riddler want. Who gets to Batman first and how that goes down is what I’m most anticipating to see.
Bringing Catwoman in as a third party who did not pick a side when Joker and Riddler approached her was a good way of showing her outsider tendencies. Even if it was for a quick scene, King got across how superior Catwoman sees herself, especially when compared to Batman’s Rogues Gallery. Using all the chaos to get her revenge on the Maroni Family was nice integration of Catwoman’s backstory in all of this.
King’s writing is further strengthened by the fantastic artwork that Mikel Janin provided. Even in the slow moments where we saw Commissioner Gordon talk to Batman, Joker and Riddler in different scenes Janin was able to create a great sense of tension with how he drew these scenes.
That tension is carried over to the intense battle of mercenaries that Deadshot and Deathstroke get into. Janin’s artwork is stunning in these scenes as he gives a good is able to paint the scope of this battle and how Batman had to spend the five days saving people rather than stopping the two mercenaries. That intensity gave further weight to when Batman breaks and beats down Deadshot even after he lost consciousness.
The Bad: As strong as the story of Batman #28 was this was the first issue that Bruce Wayne’s narration did get in the way of fully enjoying the story. Having Bruce explain every little detail as to what was going on robbed some of the tension behind moments. This is especially the case for when Batman asks Commissioner Gordon if he is really considering sacrificing Batman to stop the war. It should have been one of those relationship changing moments but it wasn’t the case with how Bruce explained everything.
The same goes for the opening scene with Bruce explaining how Joker and Riddler have already taken over the Gotham City, with the city split in half. This explanation just goes to remind us that the interlude we got in Batman #27 did distract us from getting the full picture of the war. Just starting the issue off with the city already divided in half did feel like an empty status quo since we didn’t see it happen. We got hints of it in previous splash pages but those pages didn’t paint the full picture as to what Joker and Riddler have put the city through.
That lack of showcasing the extremes Joker and Riddler have gone does put more work on the reader. It also reminds us that we could’ve seen what happened if we didn’t get sudden interlude issue two issues after the war started. That interlude issue would of been better served to further show what all the villains Joker and Riddler have recruited to their respective sides to give us a better idea what Batman and the citizens of Gotham City have gone through. And if Kite Man’s story is something that was to be told it would’ve been better as a back-up story that ran in each issue of this series.
Overall: Batman #28 was a good return to the main story of “The War of Jokes and Riddles.” The tense atmosphere around Gotham City is enhanced with Tom King and Mikel Janin highlighting the five day battle between Deadshot and Deathstroke that proves to be a breaking point for Batman. Unfortunately some Bruce Wayne’s narration is starting to hold back the story from reaching the full potential a war between Joker and Riddler should have. That said, “The War of Jokes and Riddles” continues to be a fascinating read with Batman #28 creating further excitement for what comes next.