Batman #24 ended with a big moment in the life of Bruce Wayne as he finally proposed to Selina Kyle/Catwoman. After the events of “The Button” crossover, Bruce is in a much different place now that he heard how his father wants him to let the Batman mantle rest. Proposing and (hopefully) marrying Selina may be the biggest step Bruce can take to a life beyond being Batman. But before he gets to the next chapter of his life we must look back at what is said to be his greatest failure in the event called “War Of Jokes And Riddles.” What exactly will we learn about the Joker and Riddler’s history? Let’s find out with Batman #25.
Writer: Tom King
Artist: Mikel Janin
Colorist: June Chung
Story Rating: 9 Night Girls out of 10
Art Rating: 8 Night Girls out of 10
Overall Rating: 8.5 Night Girls out of 10
Synopsis: On a stage a comedian nervously stands as someone off stage tells him to stop. The person off stage shots the guy and calls for the stage to be cleared.
Another guy, named Chris Feder, walks on stage ready to perform. The person off stage tells Chris to make him laugh.
At the prison interrogation room, a detective is getting frustrated with Nigma for not helping them find where the Joker is hiding. The detective says their deal is off and they won’t help Nigma try to get out anymore.
Before the detective leaves Nigma calls him back by saying he can help. The detective sits back down. Nigma then asks the detective “why the end of the world never comes?” The detective is confused by the questions. Nigma suddenly jumps at the detective and slashes his neck and stabs him twenty-six times.
Outside the Joke Factory, Commissioner Gordon has assembled several cops to get rady to go inside. Just as he tells the cops to go in a huge explosion engulfs the Joke Factory building in flames.
As the cops try to figure out what is going on Joker appears from the shadows and kills two of the cops in the chaos. Narrating the events, Bruce reveals that Joker was holding auditions at the Joke Factory.
At the prison, guards have cornered Nigma and tell him to stand down before they all drop him. Nigma starts naming people close to each of the guards in front of him. The guards get scared for their loved ones safety and allow Nigma to walk out of the prison unharmed.
Elsewhere in Gotham City, the Joker says something that his driver laughs at so he decides to shoot him, causing the car to crash into a nearby fountain. Joker walks out of the crash and starts walking towards one of Gotham’s apartment complexes.
At that same time Nigma walks onto the crash site and walks into the same tower Joker went into.
Nigma recites a pattern of numbers that leads him into a penthouse apartment. He walks right in and says “knock, knock.” Joker responds, sitting at a desk, by saying “who’s there.” Nigma says “an answer” but before he reveals what it is he wants Joker to know how he solved his puzzle.
Nigma states that he knows that he understands the pattern from the map means that Joker can’t laugh. He goes on to say that every location Joker attacked was also a way to draw “him” out as with “him” around Joker always loses and can’t laugh because of how predictable the outcome is.
Nigma reveals that he feels the same way and that after seeing Joker’s plan he knew he had to talk to the Joker. Nigma says the do to their goals with “him” they would rather go to war than let the other kill “him” individually. Nigma proposes that he and Joker team up to kill “him,” to kill the Batman.
Joker thinks about it for a second. Nigma gets closer to try to convince Joker. Just as he does Joker shoots Nigma in the stomach thinking it would make him laugh but it doesn’t. Joker walks away if and wonders if that will draw Batman out.
Sometime later Batman breaks into the penthouse and finds Nigma bleeding out on the floor. Nigma tells Batman that Joker took the bomb and left. Batman leaves to go search for the Joker as Nigma is in a near-death state that he can’t be saved from.
After Batman leaves, Nigma grabs his wound and gets back up, walking away happy that he got one under Batman’s nose.
In the present Bruce tells Selina that over the next few months after Joker and Riddler’s first meeting, Gotham City was divided as the two villains went to war.
Bruce then talks about how everyone around him believe they know who he is. Bruce says none of them do but he wants Selina to know about what he had to do during the “War of Jokes and Riddles.” End of issue.
The Good: With how big of an event Bruce Wayne’s proposal to Selina Kyle was in Batman #24 it could’ve been extremely odd and out of place to have the very next story set in the past. Luckily, Tom King and Mikel Janin avoid any awkwardness in the transition by tying the past and present day events through Bruce’s narration. The connected tissue that strengthens Batman #25’s story is the ending as we see how Bruce’s story relates to his engagement to Selina.
The ending shows us how much Bruce wants Selina to know him like no one else does. To do that Bruce knows that he needs to show his vulnerabilities by dropping the shield he has created so that Selina can know him the best. Though I was critical on how “The Button” crossover turned out, this new, open Bruce shows us how much he took the words the Flashpoint version of Thomas Wayne said to him to heart. This framing for the story gives further importance to that crossover while building up Bruce and Selina to have a much stronger relationship than their previous attempts to be with each other.
The framing for “War of Jokes and Riddles” is well executed, with the ending adding to how important of a story this is. Learning that Bruce did something as Batman that he has kept secret adds to how tense this story should be. Having the story set at the early stages of Bruce’s time as Batman helps as get a less experienced version of the character. It also allows King the opportunity to show Batman’s Rogues Gallery in a different light as everyone involved in the war between Joker and Riddler will be in the early stages of their careers as villains.
Most interestingly is how it looks like the Joker that will be at the center of “War of Jokes and Riddles” will be the version from the Killing Joke. Going back to the DC Rebirth one-shot, we learned that this version of the Joker is actually the second version of the character. There are a lot of characteristics that go back to the Killing Joke version of Joker, especially in his design. King adds extra depth to this Joker by showing us how the character is looking for a laugh but can’t accomplish that with Batman around because he is a predictable element that persist in his life.
King added further subtleties to how this Joker acted like the Killing Joke version of the character rather than the present-day version. Unlike the present-day Joker, this version had very minimal amount of dialogue. His silence during the scene with Riddler showed how different he doesn’t try to dominate conversions like he does post-New 52. It was also a nice piece of detail that each time Joker shot someone it was in the gut, calling back to how he paralyzed Barbara Gordon in the Killing Joke.
With Joker’s dialogue being kept at the minimum it help Riddler and his dialogue stand out more. King’s version of Joker is absolutely fantastic. King portrays Riddler in multiple ways as we see how easily he can be ticked off and go into full rage mode with how he took out the detective in the interrogation room. That event made how Riddler broke out of the prison by revealing he knows every person that is important to the prison guards showed us how far in advance he is always thinking.
That in control Riddler made his entire rant to Joker standout even more. Seeing how Riddler revealed that he and Joker were similar in their ambition to kill Batman was great. It not only gives us a good idea of why the Riddler and Joker would go to war with each other but also puts Batman in the middle of everything. Even with his minimal physical presence in this issue, it still felt like a Batman story because he the catalyst for everything going on. Seeing that Batman’s other major Rogues Gallery members will get roped into the “War of Jokes and Riddles” makes the story feel like a big event within the Batman ongoing series.
Mikel Janin does an excellent job elevating Batman #25’s story through his artwork. His version of Riddler is designed to look more like Greg Capullo’s version of the character, calling back to how this story is not long after the Zero Year plotline. At the same time, Janin’s Joker does take it’s inspiration from Brian Bolland’s Killing Joke version, both from his suit and facial design. This execution in calling elements from these versions of the characters amplifies the tension between the characters as their individual personalities pop off the page even more.
The Bad: Nothing.
Overall: Batman #25 is a fantastic start to the “War of Jokes and Riddles” story arc. Tom King does an excellent job framing the story through the eyes of present-day Bruce Wayne, as he looks to strengthen his relationship with Selina Kyle. King adds to the tension of the story by revealing that Batman did something during the war between Joker and Riddler that he has kept secret for a long time. That mystery makes “War of Jokes and Riddles” feel like a big event, even if we know where Batman is in his life in the present.