BATMAN #29 & #30

The Joker and the Riddler are at war with each other and you need to decide which side you want to follow. So which one will it be? I know which one I would choose, and so does Tom King, Clay Mann, and Mikel Janin! It's September, 2017, and it's time for another Batman double review.

TO QUOTE Will Rogers: 'Diplomacy is the art of saying "Nice doggie" until you can find a rock'.

Many years ago, Martha Wayne told her young son Bruce that the best way to resolve a dispute is to sit down and have a good old fashioned dinner. You know; something fairly fancy, like a nine course meal, similar to what the French Aristocracy used to serve. Years later Bruce remembered his mother's words, and that is why he put them into action in order to resolve a dispute between the Joker and the Riddler.

Yeah. I'm not kidding! He actually managed to do this with a little help from his contact in the Gotham City Police Department, namely, Commissioner James Gordon, as they arranged it so everyone would meet up at Wayne Manor for a sit down meal, hosted by Bruce and his butler, Alfred Pennyworth. Also in attendance were an assortment of their associates, such as Mister Freeze and Killer Croc, who stood back and observed these proceedings while Alfred served each of them their meals, one course at a time. 

After a while Bruce was able to use this situation to his advantage, doing so by transforming it into a contest of sorts, a contest in which he posed one simple question: 'Prove to me which one of you deserves to kill the Batman and I will support you once this meal is finally over'.

So, who do you think he chooses? Surprisingly enough, it's The Riddler, and thats why Batman joins forces with him so he can systematically take down every single one of the Jokers henchmen. Seriously, you name the fiend, and one way or another they get taken down. Be it Dumm and Dee, Scarface, Man-Bat, Two Face, Quizmaster, Mister Freeze, and even the Mad Hatter, every single one of them gets slapped, kicked, punched, and blown into submission, until eventually it only leaves one man standing: Kite-Man, who Batman catches and takes back to the Riddlers hideout for further interrogation.

And on that note, dear reader, I think it best that I stop myself there because I'm sure I've said too much already. Besides, I think that now would be a pretty good time to tell you what I thought about these two episodes. Here, check this out…

POINT ONE) Unbelievable Meal:   Now my main problem with issue 29 is that it felt fairly flat in terms of believability.  For one thing, I wasn't completely sold on the idea that most of Batman's Rogues Gallery would stand around and idly watch three people eat, even if two of those people included the Joker and the Riddler. I mean, they're a bunch of thieves, killers, and lunatics, for crying out loud, not henchmen, plus I don't think for one second that villain's such as Clayface, Poison Ivy, or Two Face, would be so obedient towards their known opposition.

I could also say exactly the same thing about the Joker or the Riddler! From my point of view they wouldn't be able to sit down and have a partly civilized discussion without trying to kill each other in the process. Seriously, none of this feels quite right, not one little bit, and that kind of puts a big dent in the stories initial intent.

POINT TWO) Continuity Gaff:   Something else I wasn't too keen on was a mistake issue 29 made to continuity. Now if I remember rightly, this dinner party takes place at the start of Batman's second year. So with that in mind, why were Batgirl and Robin featured in a sequence where the Riddler imagines killing them? These two characters were established later on in continuity, not now, and a similar thing can also be said about the Penguins appearance, particularly since his character hasn't been properly established yet.

POINT THREE) Let's Have Some Fun:   On a more positive note, however, some parts of this book were very enjoyable to read, funny even, while some other parts were very therapeutic and revealing. For instance, whenever certain characters spoke, such as Bruce or the Riddler, it almost seemed as if what they were saying was a cathartic experience, bordering on the self analytical, and indirectly may highlight certain fears they have brewing inside them (I wonder if Bruce does want to kill Batman?).

In the same token I also have to applaud Tom King for being brave enough to set this tale in such a Agatha Christie styled manner. Heck, I don't think I've seen this type of dinner table sequence played out in a Bat book before (except for that one time at the end of the 'Death of the Family' story arc). Plus, I particularly enjoyed how Tom denoted each chapter by presenting us with a different plate of food. Not only did this 'technique' fracture the narrative and give it a faster pace, but in addition to this, each small scene allowed the whole scenario to seem more digestible (excuse the obvious pun).

POINT FOUR) Kite-Ham:   Unfortunately my praise for issue 29 has been tempered somewhat by my confusion over issue 30. Essentially this interlude is told from Kite-man's perspective, and illustrates how every villain he joins forces with ends up getting taken down by the Batman. While this is going on he also internally remembers a conversation he once had with his dearly departed son, a conversation which obviously highlights that he doesn't hold himself in high esteem, largely due to some of the choices he's made throughout his life.

Now, without trying to sound too judgmental, I felt that this particular chapter didn't really find the right kind of balance between the humor and the sadness it was trying to convey. Whenever something funny would occur, it was immediately undercut by the despondent internal monologue relayed by Kite-man and his son. Plus, to make matters even worse, once you understood the basic intent of this issue (that being Batman methodically taking down the Joker's Gang), the whole pretext started to become somewhat repetitive and obvious to follow. Which was a shame, truly it was, because conceptually this was a much better idea than the previous issue, far better and much more relatable within the confines of this story arc.

Now in closing I would like to congratulate Clay Mann and Mikel Janin for providing such exquisite artwork for both of these episodes. Each and every month I seem to be praising their work more and more. In fact, I'm doing it so much now; I'm starting to find it pretty difficult to praise them without repeating myself. Well, just look at the artwork scattered throughout this review and you can see for yourself how good they really are. Their characters show character, their layouts show depth, and more or less, everything they produce seems to be just spot on.

The one thing both of these episodes have in common has to do with the way they each try to mix together comedy and tragedy. Admittedly, they don't do it very well. Although, that said, this type of thing isn't a very easy thing to do, unless you're a British sitcom, made in the 80s, about a bunch of patients lounging around a hospital ward. So take it away, 'Only When I Laugh', as it's now you're time to shine.

In 1967, Stanley Kramer directed a fantastic melodrama about a multiracial couple who ask their parents for permission to get married. It was called, 'Guess Who's Coming to Dinner?', and it starred Spencer Tracy, Sidney Poitier, and Katharine Hepburn. But more importantly than that, most of the action took place while sitting down, around a dinner table, with either side of the equation trying their best to prove their opinions are right while the others are wrong.

Sound familiar? At least on a conceptual level? Then comparison made. 

At the end of issue 30, the Riddler and Batman finally corners Kite-man in order to ask him one simple question. So, out of the following eight options, can you guess what that question is? Could it be…

  1. Where do babies come from?
  2. Did you just fart?
  3. Where's the Joker hiding?
  4. If Tommy had two apples, and I took away one of them, how many bananas does he have left?
  5. Did you vote for Trump?
  6. Can you show me the way to Amarillo
  7. Who has the better ass? Kim Kardashian or Jennifer Lopez?
  8. Can you lend me 5 dollars?
Nuff said.

BATMAN #29 & #30 BATMAN #29 & #30 Reviewed by David Andrews on September 21, 2017 Rating: 5

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