“The War Of Jokes And Riddles” had a strong start in Batman #25. While set in the past, making the ending somewhat predictable, Tom King built a compelling story that should elevate both Joker and Riddler. The story being a blank period in Batman’s career has helped the story as we are left guessing who will join Joker and Riddler’s respective side and how the Dark Knight factors in. Will Batman #26 start clearing things up as “The War Of Jokes And Riddles” truly begins? Let’s find out with Batman #26.
Writer: Tom King
Artist: Mikel Janin
Colorist: June Chung
Story Rating: 7 Night Girls out of 10
Art Rating: 8 Night Girls out of 10
Overall Rating: 7.5 Night Girls out of 10
Synopsis: Joker goes to house in the suburbs of Gotham City, killing the driver on the way.
Meanwhile, elsewhere in Gotham City as Batman patrols the streets the Riddler gets the bullet the Joker shot him with out of his stomach. After killing the black market surgeon Riddler cuts his new scar to look like a question mark.
Commissioner Gordon and Batman arrive on the scene after Riddler leaves and see the villains mark all over the room.
Elsewhere, Joker is in the bathroom listening to reports of what he and Riddler have done recently.
Joker then contacts Carmine Falcone and says that Carmine has one hour to kill the Riddler. Carmine freaks out and sends his security to kill the Riddler.
At a park the Riddler meets with Poison Ivy to convince her to join his war against Joker. Carmine’s guards find Riddler and Poison Ivy. Before they can do anything Poison Ivy uses her powers to tie all of them up. She and Riddler leave the scene to continue their talk on a partnership.
Sometime later Batman arrives at the park and is able to cut down Carmine’s guards down from Poison Ivy’s vines.
Back at Carmine’s place, Carmine finds Joker in his office. Joker shows Carmine his mother’s teeth since he didn’t kill Riddler in an hour. Joker then kills Carmine’s guards and shoots Carmine in the arm.
Joker spots Penguin and tells Penguin that he will be his assistant in killing the Riddler.
Elsewhere, Batman finds Carmine’s mother’s body dead in an alleyway.
In the present, Bruce Wayne continues to tell Selina Kyle about how Joker and Riddler continued to gather forces to their respect sides. During this time Bruce mentions how as Batman he gained the nickname “The Dark Knight” and was considered a superhero. End of issue.
The Good: Batman #26 continues to build the stage for what is to come in “The War Of Jokes And Riddles.” Now after this issue we get a clearer picture of all the major players involved in the war between Joker and Riddler. In building up both sides of the war we get even more development of this version of both villains.
The strongest aspect of Batman #26 is the writing for both Joker and Riddler. Tom King has a clear understanding of how to make both characters incredibly dangerous. Even though their names make them both seem cartoony, there is nothing funny about either character. The fear that both characters instill in other people around Gotham City speaks to how evil each one is.
King’s approach in building up Joker and Riddler to be equals was fascinating. Both characters know that they can’t easily take the other down one-on-one. For both of them to come to the conclusion of recruiting and use others to get the job done was a great way to show how they are on the same side of the same coin.
The key difference was Joker and Riddler’s approach in recruiting others to their side. With the Joker we see how his terrifying persona is what he uses to draw people to him. On the other side, we got to see with Riddler’s talk with Poison Ivy that he seeks to have more of a cooperative partnership with his villain recruits. It’s a key difference that builds on how the first interaction between Joker and Riddler went in Batman #25.
Keeping Batman at arms length as both villains stayed several steps ahead of the Dark Knight was an excellent use of the character. It allowed us to see how Batman will be a key player not connected to either side. It also gave us a chance to have Batman act more as a detective as he tries to figure out what exactly is going on in Gotham City.
Mikel Janin once again delivered some strong artwork in Batman #26. He once again, did an excellent job giving both the Joker and Riddler their own, dangerous vibe. From the terrifying facial reactions Joker has to Riddler’s calm way of talking, we see Janin take full advantage of how different these two characters are. Those differences in character further how dangerous of an event “The War Of Jokes And Riddles” will be in the history of Gotham City.
The Bad: The one knock I do have against Batman #26 is the reused ending. The ending, featuring both Joker and Riddler’s side of the war and Bruce talking to Selina in the present, was the same way Batman #25 ended. Though it looked impressive since Janin was able to draw some splash pages, they did not create an excitement for what is to come since it was how we saw the previous issue conclude.
It would have been better if we saw quick montages of how Joker and Riddler recruited all of Batman’s villain to their respective sides. That way we could’ve gotten a better idea of both villains methods of how they got characters like Deathstroke, Two-Face and Deadshot to fight with them. But since we didn’t get that, we sort of just get recycled imagery that does not leave much to the imagination of how the conversations went.
Overall: Batman #26 built on what the previous issue established by developing how Joker and Riddler go about building up their army for the upcoming war. The approach each villain takes creates the sense that we are in store for a big event in the life of Batman and history of Gotham City as “The War Of Jokes And Riddles” erupts. And given the villains being assembled for each side Tom King and Mikel Janin are sure to deliver a story that no Batman fan should miss out on reading.