Batman #25 starts the long teased mega-arc event within the Batman series, The War of Jokes & Riddles. Written by Tom King, with artwork by Mikel Janín and June Chung, this issue also marks an anniversary since the start of Batman in Rebirth.
And as setup, it’s intense.
The incredible artwork by Janín and Chung adds to this intensity, like the start of a HBO drama. There’s a powerful sense of tension in Batman #25 as it sets up the main antagonists in the war between the Joker and the Riddler. In fact, considering this is the 25th anniversary issue, Batman himself is barely seen in the issue. He narrates throughout, but he doesn’t physically appear towards the end, and then in a final scene that jumps to the present and we learn that Bruce Wayne is relating this tale to Selina Kyle/Catwoman in bed.
But why is he sharing this now? Well, it seems that a big part of this issue and potentially this arc is the revelation and discussing of somewhere Batman has failed. His failure to apprehend Riddler in favour of chasing down the Joker, which meant both parties were free to ignite a war that would affect all of Gotham.
This is something of a recurring theme in King’s run. Batman’s struggle with failures and how it pushes him forward. Batman worrying about failing to keep Gotham safe in a world of supermen and monsters, Batman’s failure to save the superhero Gotham pushing his desire to save his sister, Batman’s failure to be happy, and how that pushed him to make a dramatic life choice last issue. Here, Batman relates one of his biggest failures in his fight to keep Gotham safe.
On the Joker, we get a truly scary version here as well. Because this isn’t your usual zany, crazed maniac Joker, this is one who is filled with a seething rage, impotent as he is in his main purpose in life.
Batman’s absence in the issue is visible but his presence is felt throughout, and it is clearly mimicking the way Batman has come to affect the two supervillains’ lives.
Batman #25 sets up what promises to be a promising, epic arc that will touch almost every corner of the Batman rogues gallery and the character itself, and the ramping tension in this issue serves to amp up the expectation for the reader. In the hands of this creative team, we can probably expect to see something that could become one of the biggest, most key stories in Batman history.
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