The sun is down, my toddler is asleep, and my Advil PMs have yet to kick in – it must be time for another episode of “The War of Jokes and Riddles”. Writer Tom King’s fourth chapter is here, and what is one to make of this latest round of Joker vs. Riddler? Spoilers ahead!
What is this all about?
‘THE WAR OF JOKES AND RIDDLES’ part four! War is hell. Unless it’s in Gotham City, where it’s so much worse. The clash between The Joker and the Riddler continues to escalate, with the rest of the city’s villains picking sides and joining in. In the midst of the battle, Batman must try to save whoever he can while knowing he will forever be haunted by those he can’t.
Bruce Wayne continues his odd pillow talk with Selina Kyle as we are given what the title of this arc promised from the beginning – War. Jim Gordon is made a messenger stooge go-between from the villains to Batman as Joker and Riddler each want the Caped Crusader as their trophy. Batman and Gordon’s police are caught in the middle of what amounts to east meets west territorial gang violence. Gotham is a broken city.
Catwoman’s appearance in this story – more Kite Man too, of course – is a little bit too cutesy for me. Yet if this is a rom-com/war epic, then I guess we have to lean on the love story. The mirroring dialog, past and present, is fun, though and a hallmark Tom King feature. Particularly enjoyable is the story’s focus on Batman; less Joker and Riddler. This comes as a welcome break from the previous, nearly Bat-free, issues.
From a reader’s perspective, this story still has yet to fully catch fire. When the fuse is lit in this chapter, however, we get a Deathstroke vs. Deadshot battle. This ends up rolling across Gotham for five days, leaving destruction in its wake. Having two of comic’s top mercenaries go at each other is an entertaining device and the simmering rage in Bruce Wayne’s narration is well-written.
The infliction of angry pain upon one of the mercenaries (no spoilers) is a low point in the Batman character, and Bruce Wayne knows this too. The regret in his speech is conveyed through simple language choices by King. When the feds get involved, Joker and Riddler remain victorious. Almost as if they are two steps ahead of everyone the entire time.
Finally, for the first time in this story, Batman plays a substantive role. Catwoman too, making only a slightly shoehorned addendum to the tale, partially answers why Bruce might be telling Selina this story in the first place. “The War of Jokes and Riddles” continues to be a middle-of-the-road read for me, some good, some “meh” moments, all while featuring fantastic art from Mikel Janin. His Batman looks the way I want a Batman comic to be visually rendered, but I’m personally not a fan of every depiction (Riddler! – Ahem). Still, the motivations for the villainous remains a little lackluster overall. It is a grim, dour reading event when Kite Man might be the highlight of a story arc.
Reviewed by: Jeff Daily
Written by: Tom King
Art by: Mikel Janin, June Chung, Clayton Cowles
Published by DC Comics
Release Date: August 2nd, 2017