Nine long issues ago, a question was asked. A question laden with the weight of fans expectations, of worry of what lay ahead. Nine long issues ago, the question on everyone’s lips was, “Will The War of Jokes & Riddles be any good?” That question is finally answered in a tiny three lettered word….”meh.”
In Batman #32 we finally find out how the War finally ended, not with a bang, not with a whimper but with a laugh. Which is kind of the whole point of the story. Why then, baring a Kite-Man interlude and an interesting dinner party, do I feel like the Joker at the start of this story?
Tom King’s work has garnered a lot of fans of late, especially on Mr. Miracle which is in fact a great book. Here, there has been a level of pretension about the Batman’s life. Whether it’s the arrogance of thinking only he knows what is best for Gotham Girl, the stubbornness to take on naked Bane in his own stronghold or the self-absorbed “let me tell you about me, whilst I wait for an answer to my proposal”, King’s Batman doesn’t quite work as well as the equally self-controlled version that inhabits Detective Comics. Some of this isn’t King’s fault; can anyone actually remember when Batman actually stopped a crime? It seems to me that this book, is aiming to be the comic book version of the epic summer movie. But somewhere along the way, the actual reason why Batman is so popular has gone awry. Not every book has to be an event, especially when Batman is involved in pretty much every event anyways. Maybe I am suffering from event-lash.
The work of Mikel Janin has been a saving grave on this book. The uber detailed faces style is massively popular at the moment and Janin on this book and Stjepan Sejic on Aquaman are the main proponents. For the most part the art in this issue really works. The distaste of the Joker, the mania of the Riddler and the controlled fury of Batman are all well realized. It’s a shame that the impact of the art and the almost painted work of June Chung on colors, is diluted by a script that tells more than the art can show. Still for all the good art on show, there is a climax to the book that needs a huge emotional payoff. However, when the cat is finally let out of the bag, Selina looks like a store dummy with a painted on face that looks frozen and a posture that looks wooden and placed. I understand that this is a comic book, but there are a number of artists out there that can make movement, and sometimes a lack of movement seem natural. Maybe Janin would be better served with better camera angles.
I have mentioned that the book feels like more tell than show, which may well be a symptom of the framework of the story, with its back in the day vibe. Regarding the main end of the book, if I asked someone to marry me and the answer was “Ask me again”, I don’t think that I would! I am not particularly bothered about the final answer, I am very much a “journey is more important” kind of fan. A couple of other things to consider, King adds another level of angst onto Bruce’s mental state which leads to the question how much can one man suffer from and still be able to put one front in front of another? My final thought on this run, thank god that this book shipped fortnightly, because I am not sure I would have been happy waiting nine long months for the conclusion.
Writing – 3 Stars
Art -3.5 Stars
Colors – 4 Stars
Writing by; Tom King
Art by; Mikel Janin
Colors by June Chung
Published by; DC Comics