“The War of Jokes and Riddles” reached its tipping point in Batman #29 as the Dark Knight was pushed to the point in choosing sides. Does he go with the unpredictable Joker? Or does he side with the questionable Riddler? The last issue proved that there is no middle ground between the two and Batman must chose which one of his greatest villains sides is the better of two evils. Now the questions is if Batman #30 will actually show us that answer since this is technically an Interlude chapter. The previous Interlude chapter was used to re-introduce a modern-day version of Kite Man. Will Batman #30 do a similar thing with another Batman villain or will we see answers the previous issue brought up? Let’s find out with Batman #30.
Writer: Tom King
Artist: Clay Mann
Inker: Seth Mann
Colorist: Jordie Bellaire
Story Rating: 9 Night Girls out of 10
Art Rating: 7 Night Girls out of 10
Overall Rating: 8 Night Girls out of 10
Synopsis: Kite Man tells Tweedledee and Tweedledum about doing recon work in Riddler’s territory. The pair get distracted in discussing fighting Batman. As Kite Man prepares to take of Batman, wearing a Riddler army arm band, appears out of nowhere and knocks out the three Joker’s army members.
Batman ends up only leaving Kite Man behind, hanging from his glider for Joker to find.
Sometime later Kite Man reports back to Joker that Tweedledee and Tweedledum were taken out by Batman. Unhappy with what he just heard, Joker proceeds to beat Kite Man with a folding chair.
After regaining consciousness Kite Man puts on his costume and heads back out to serve Joker’s army.
Kite Man finds the Ventriloquist and learns that Batman took Scarface during a fight with Killer Croc. Kite Man tries to tell Ventriloquist things will be fine. Ventriloquist gets up and yells that he wants his puppet back.
Sometime later Kite Man and Man-Bat are patrolling the air. Batman attacks both of them in the bat-jet, taking Man-Bat out while leaving Kite Man alone.
Kite Man ends up being captured by Two-Face. Two-Face argues with himself about Riddler’s agreement with Batman meaning that he cannot kill. Two-Face ends up throwing Kite Man in the river below the bridge they are on.
Sometime later Kite Man meets up with Cluemaster. Cluemaster brings up how Batman forcing Riddler to promise that his side won’t kill anyone gives them an easy out as part of Joker’s crew.
Scarecrow suddenly shows up and instantly takes Cluemaster out with his fear toxin. Scarecrow then turns his attention to Kite Man.
Kite Man suddenly wakes up near the river alone.
After recovering Kite Man teams up with Mr. Freeze. Batman suddenly throws a batarang at Mr. Freeze’s helmet and quickly takes him out while leaving Kite Man behind.
Kite Man next teams up with Mad Hatter. As they search for the Riddler’s army Batman takes Mad Hatter from the shadows, only leaving behind Mad Hatter’s helmet for Kite Man to find.
Some time later Joker speaks to his army how while Batman and Riddler have united he will still be victorious. It is then shown that the only person in the theater is Kite Man.
At a later point Batman takes out Kite Man in an alley. Batman tells Kite Man to stay down but the villains keeps getting back up.
Kite Man ends up finding himself in an interrogation room with Riddler and Batman. Riddler reveals that they purposely left Kite Man as Joker’s last soldier because he is a joke of a villain and they needed Joker to trust him with his secret location. End of issue.
The Good: While it is called an interlude chapter in “The War of Jokes and Riddles” Batman #30 is possibly the best issue of this epic story arc. By bringing the spotlight back to Kite Man writer Tom King is able to create a major sense that the scales are tipping to one side. In doing so King sets the stage for things to become even more chaotic in Gotham City.
Through Kite Man we are able to see how even a joke villain can have an important role in a story. King accomplishes that not by re-inventing the character to be more dangerous but rather using Kite Man’s joke status to further the overall plot of “The War of Jokes and Riddles.” The fact that Batman and Riddler purposely left Kite Man behind to be the sole “survivor” of Joker’s army gave the character an important role on the chessboard, even if it wasn’t necessarily on his side.
As Kite Man is used in this way by Batman and Riddler we are able to see how it all plays into the narrative King has created for Kite Man. As we saw in the previous issue, Kite Man has plenty of reasons to side with Joker. And it was his own obsession with revenge that made Kite Man not realize how weak he is. The inner monologue that was shown to be a previous discussion with his son about if he was a joke made Kite Man an even more tragic character. That is a big step up for a character has never shown this kind of depth and makes you care about his fate in this story.
The way Kite Man was used also helped to emphasize the deal Batman has made with Riddler to not kill anyone. Even fighting some of the most dangerous villains in Gotham City, King was able to show how much clout Batman has with Riddler by choosing to side with the villain. Two-Face’s dialogue in particular showed how important it is for Riddler to have Batman by his side as the war with Joker has escalated.
That sense of escalation is furthered by how members of Joker’s own army see Batman and Riddler’s alliance as a way out. Cluemaster openly talking about that shows that Joker’s power in the war has diminished. And with the Batman and Riddler alliance it is the perfect time for these individual villains to get out of the war that is going.
This provides an even more intriguing scenario as Joker is backed into a corner without anyone to back him up. In placing Joker in this situation by the Batman and Riddler alliance King now has set up Joker to be even more dangerous than when he had a horde of villains on his side. Because as we know from the Joker, he is most dangerous when he has no one to care about and is alone. The character now has no sort of allegiance to obtain victory for anyone other than himself. That may turn out to be the worst possible situation for Batman and Riddler to find themselves in this war and they will only have themselves to blame.
Now with this entire being recounted because Bruce wanted to admit to Selina the dark decision that has haunted him for the majority of his Batman career King furthered the mystery as to what that is with this issue. Siding with the Riddler is already a hard decision of Bruce to reveal but with still a few issues left this doesn’t look like that is the point of this story. That makes you wonder if Joker will do something that will force Batman to make an even darker decision that will change how he should be viewed in Gotham City.
With how this issue focused on the various ways Batman and Riddler took out Joker’s army Clay Mann had plenty of space to stretch his artistic muscle. And that is exactly what he did with Batman #30 as we saw the Dark Knight take out some of his biggest villains out in different ways. Mann got across how Batman was not messing around as he went for the fastest and most efficient way to finish each confrontation before they even became a fight. That swiftness helped compliment how we saw Kite Man come to terms with how he is a joke villain by the end of the issue.
The Bad: Nothing.
Overall: Batman #30 is the strongest issue of “The War of Jokes and Riddles.” That is a major accomplishment with how great this story arc has been thus far. Tom King did an excellent job turning Kite Man’s joke status into a key plot point for the story arc’s development. Now King has set up a situation where Joker may be even more dangerous while Batman tries to come to terms with his alliance with Riddler.