BATMAN #25 & #26

Riddle me this, riddle me that, who's afraid of the big bad bat? Answer: Everyone should be, or else we're all flipping stupid. I mean, who in their right minds isn't scared of a huge and evil looking bat? Tom King? Mikel Janin? DC Comics? Or how about the two characters depicted in the following story? It's July, 2017, and it's time for another double review.

TO QUOTE President Merkin Muffley: 'Gentlemen, you can't fight in here! This is the War Room'.

Quite some time ago, approximately a whole year after the events of Zero Year, two of Batman's archenemies found themselves at a crossroads in there lives. 

The Riddler, normally a pretty gregarious person, started to become disenchanted with himself; mainly because he was locked away in prison, seemingly for good, while being used by the police to solve crime after crime after crime.

Funnily enough, the same thing can also be said about the Joker. Once upon a time he laughed at everything that came his way, be it death, mayhem, or even cruelty to whoever took his fancy, particularly other comedians or policemen. But then one day all of that changed in a big way. So much so, in fact, that he strangely lost the ability to laugh. 

Yeah, I'm not kidding! Mister J actually had a problem cracking a smile while cracking heads. So, to counteract his sadness, this self-confessed Crown Prince of Crime figured out a way of getting his own back against the man who did this to him in the first place, namely, The Batman, doing so by going on a mad rampage throughout the city.

Now when the Riddler caught wind of this (via the detective who was liaising with him), he took it upon himself to escape from prison and make his way towards the Jokers hideout. Once there, these two men faced off against each other, villain to villain, thus prompting the Riddler to propose to the Joker the following plan... 

'Come work with me and together we can take down Batman once and for all'.

Nice idea, isn't it? Yet would he agree to this? Would the Joker even consider teaming up with a rival so he can put an end to his ultimate rival? Answer: Not quite, especially when he shoots the Riddler in the stomach right after he conveys his proposition! Bang-Bang! Thunk-Thunk!  Oh dear! 

But don't worry: The Riddler isn't dead. If anything he's very much alive and well and ready to get his revenge on the men, or should that be, two men, who messed up his life. So finally it came to pass that the War of Jokes and Riddles hit the streets of Gotham City, a war which primarily took place within the pages of Batman issues 25 and 26. Although, in the case of issue 26, the overall war steps up a gear when both parties join forces with a probable ally! The Joker, for example, coerces the mob boss Carmine Falconi to attack the Riddler on his behalf; where as the Riddler, on the other hand, manages to make Poison Ivy see things his way. Eventually both of these partnerships find a way to ultimately collide, and after that, well, let's just say that stuff happens. Stuff to do with both sides of the equation trying to outdo each other, one way or another.

Now, where the artwork is concerned, a great big round of applause has to go to my old mate, Mikel Janin, for providing this story-line with some very bold and lavish visuals. I particularly liked the way in which he drew the expressions upon each of the characters faces, as he was able to make the Riddler seem more menacing, the Joker seem more sullen, and the Batman seem more mysterious than normal. I have to also congratulate him on the way in which he drew all of those cinematic double-page spreads (you've got to love a montage sequence) as well as one of Falconi's henchmen, specifically, the one named Fatman. It's almost as if Mikel drew him to resemble the Penguin, or maybe a very close relative, and obviously his inclusion begs the question, is it him or is it someone else? And if it is him, why, why, why?

Another thing I liked about these two issues has to do with all of those little character-based tit-bits which populate each chapter. A good example of this can be seen in issue 26 when the Joker practices smiling in the mirror; as its a very original take on an old school classic. There was also another enjoyable scene in the same book that I liked for a completely different reason. It was that scene where the Riddler met his corrupt dentist, a scene which obviously paid homage to the first Tim Burton Batman film, in the way it resembled the Joker having surgery after falling into a vat of chemicals.

Now the only thing I'm not quite sure about has to do with the story's muted yet tonal approach. Well, as much as I enjoyed Bruce's narration to Selina (in his bedroom no less), thus giving the overall narrative a feeling of melancholy and personal attachment, at the same time there is also a detachment in terms of plot.

Lets face it, we all know that most of the main players will survive these events, including Batman, the Joker, the Riddler, as well as the supporting cast, and this, indirectly, dilutes any form of suspense or fear this multi-part story-line try's to convey. Which is a shame, really, especially since it seems like a fun tale, one that seems promising yet disposable at the same time. Although, let's wait and see, shall we? As next month the war of Jokes and Riddles may seem much more like a full on war!

In essence, these first two installments encapsulate a reflective story about war, oh, good God! What is it good for? Comparing comic books to! Say it again now, Edwin Star... hit it!

In no uncertain terms these two issues represent the start of an ongoing feud, similar to two kids fighting in a playground. Although in this case, much, much, much, much, harsher,  wilder, and very-very gregarious.

At the very end of issue 26, Bruce tells Selina about something he did during the Jokers feud with the Riddler. So, for the sake of anarchy, let's see if you can guess what he tells her out of the following eight options? Could it be…

  • He explained and demonstrated to Selina that joke which referenced the number 69 and the Batman artist, Dick Sprang.
  • He dressed up as a seagull and attempted to fly.
  • He became a woman and decided to call himself woman-man.
  • He shot the Riddler in the face with a pig.
  • He cataloged everyone who died during this debacle.
  • He joined a boy band but forgot how to sing.
  • He became a vicar and prayed a lot.
  • He kissed the Joker on his arm. 
Nuff said.

BATMAN #25 & #26 BATMAN #25 & #26 Reviewed by David Andrews on July 18, 2017 Rating: 5

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