Batman, Volume 4: The War of Jokes and Riddles Review

It’s been some time since I read I am Bane and if you’ve read my review of I am Gotham and I am Suicide then you’d know by now that Tom King’s work on Batman Rebirth has not exactly bowled me over. Here, in this review of the fourth collected edition from his run you’ll find out why I personally think this is the worst one yet and a genuine worry for me of where Batman is headed.

The premise of the whole arc is so; both the Riddler and Joker want to kill the Batman but they are arguing over who gets to do it as it will leave the other guy disappointed. This then ensues into a month long or so war (I gathered from some dates in a list of the dead) between the two of them. Countless many are killed in the process. Here’s why the arc didn’t work for me:

During all of this, Batman appears to do very little to stop this war – this isn’t the first all out war over Gotham we’ve seen – think No Man’s Land, Knightfall, War Games. Yet, we see the majority of the book focusing on Joker and Riddler planning how to kill the other. This is a Batman book and seeing so little of him smashing faces and putting and end to this was infuriating. He oversaw over 60 killed during all this and it was seriously disappointing to see so little of the Dark Knight.

Next, the repetition. Oh my god. Why does Tom King repeat things so often? In I am Bane he made Bane say the catchphrase over and over again and in The War of Jokes and Riddles either the Joker tells a terrible joke or Riddler tells a riddle in almost every single page they’re in. We get it! Tom King has seriously let Joker down with this shoddy writing, he was totally devoid of any personality and is nothing like some his best portrayals. He was not menacing, fearful or even remotely funny throughout. The Riddler is one of my favourite characters and arguably the sharpest mind next to Batman in the Bat-Family of books, however in this he was dull, irritating and not once did he really flex his mind at all. Another huge let down using a big name villain for King in my eyes. That’s Bane, Joker and Riddler he’s got all wrong in my eyes. Also “Hell yeah”.

Third. Kite-Man. A brand new villain with a thin backstory. He liked kites, got caught up in the War of Jokes and Riddles so he made a giant one and became a villain. Then he made almost every villain a kite and they all used it to fly…even Batman. Yes, Batman did not have any means to fly across a building (what?) so he trusted Kite Man to make him one at very short notice. His backstory was a bit pathetic as well. King seemingly can not write villains when they’re established or when they have rich history to tap into.

Fourth. There are a lot of other villains in this arc including Deathstroke, Two-Face, Poison Ivy, Clayface, you name it they were involved. They didn’t need convincing either, they just picked a side and jumped straight in risking their lives for The Joker or Riddler and they weren’t even going to get a taste of killing Batman either. I considered some of these villains top tier and disappointed they were written as pawns to the two titular characters.

Fifth, is the ending which I won’t get into because spoilers but I just didn’t like it or the way this is going between two of the biggest characters in the DC Universe.

That’s the negatives out of the way, what did I like about the book?

Catwoman. Catwoman’s classic look is back in the purple catsuit.

The Deathstroke vs. Deadshot battle is short but incredibly sweet.

The artwork is absolutely tremendous by Mikel Janín from start to finish. Ultra crisp details with a somewhat 3D aspect and the colours jumped out of the page. In fact, the art has been superb throughout Rebirth and I find myself spending longer than usual taking the whole thing in.

That’s it.

Overall, The War of Jokes and Riddles was a serious let down for me. The writing was poor and lazy from start to finish and King was unable to grasp the elements of the characters which made them great to me. The overarching plot was thin at best with many loopholes, inconsistencies and poorly executed plot devices. King has not been a comic writer for very long and it shows in this book as his lack of experience handing big name characters leaves a bitter taste in my mouth, even more so as he continues to use more and more villains and gets them wrong every time. I hope this can improve but now we are already 4 volumes in it is getting very unlikely. Still, the book’s are good to look at.