In Review: Batman #26

A visual feast as the story continues to build to war.

The covers: Mikel Janín creates the Regular cover showing a puzzle being completed by Batman. Only the Dark Knight’s hand is visible, holding the piece that shows the Joker’s mouth, who is the image of the assembled pieces. This puzzle is sitting atop a wooden table made of crimson colored pieces. A dramatic cover, but generic for any Joker issue. The Variant cover by Josh Middleton was the one I had to purchase and the one I included with this review. This is a drop dead gorgeous frontpiece showing Poison Ivy sitting on a moss covered tree. Giant thorny vines are below her and purple flowered vines fall from above her. Simply outstanding. Overall grades: Regular B and Variant A+

The story: This second installment of “The War of Jokes and Riddles” by Tom King opens with the Joker taking a taxi to a house in an upper class neighborhood. The Joker goes in and is soon followed by five gunshots. The scene moves to Gotham proper, where Batman overhears that the taxi driver was discovered in his car, unable to stop laughing. This is followed by a fantastic page of the Riddler getting a doctor to fix the chest wound he received from the Joker last issue. It’s extremely similar to a classic scene from Tim Burton’s Batman. A turn of the page has the focus fall solely on the Riddler, doing something to his chest while giving six riddles that have the same answer. What the Riddler leaves in his wake is gruesome, yet undeniably cool. The Joker receives focus next, who hears a broadcast that upsets him, leading him to calling gangster Carmine Falcone. What he says to the criminal is chilling. The Riddler then returns to the forefront with a fantastic four page sequence involving Poison Ivy and some other characters. Pages 13 and 14 show how deadly one villain can be, with another classic villain brought to the forefront of Batman’s rogues. This is followed by Bruce’s narration stating that other monsters chose sides in this conflict, while he could only do one thing. This was a good build, showing how one antagonist is recruiting allies, but Batman is several steps behind both villains. This is building to a big blow up, I hope, but otherwise things are just building. Overall grade: B 

The art: Mikel Janín is crushing the visuals on this book. His style is very realistic, making the actions of the villains even more horrific. The first page is like a scene from everyday life as a taxi pulls up to a house and a man gets out. The passenger is shown from the back and is unquestionably the Joker. He walks into the house before him and disappears. The exterior of the home is shown accompanied by Batman’s narration and five gunshots. The sounds make this comfortable setting horrific. A turn of the page has the title character leaping from the top of a gargoyle and swinging through the city. Batman looks great; on this page he’s clearly seen, he demonstrates he’s graceful, and shows his agility as he zips through the city. Page 3 echoes a scene from Batman, with the villain hidden, the doctor terrified, and the setting an illegal office. The bottom of the page only shows the Riddler from the nose down and his mouth shows the anger that taints his one word. Page 4 shows the antagonist marking himself, but in the first panel Janín does a slick circular insert that shows where the reader should be focusing his or her attention. The visuals on 5 contain a symbol that’s repeated throughout the setting, making the previous pages’ actions disturbing. The Joker gets eight close-ups on 5, showing how he’s reacting to what he’s hearing. His mood swings are absolutely insane. 10 and 11 is a double-page spread that shows the Riddler and Poison Ivy walking through a park. The pair are shown from five different angles, creating a solid sense of motion. Around them are other motions that are equally impressive. An infamous character appears on Page 14 and I’m hoping that Janín gets to draw more of this individual. There are two sumptuous double-page spreads on 16 & 17 and 18 & 19. This is teasing, I hope, an actual confrontation, but this is unquestionably beautiful artwork. Overall grade: A+

The colors: The first page has a picturesque blue sky. This is a slick way to place the reader at ease, for what could possibly go wrong in this setting? The yellows of the taxi cab are made brighter for the sounds of gunshots, which provide a visual link to each other and set up the dialogue on the following page. Gotham is darkly colored, but not so much so as to make Batman invisible. June Chung makes Dr. Knowles’ workplace sleazy in browns, tans, and blacks. Notice how the chair in the final panel is stained, suggesting past horrors that occurred. Red is used for the circular panel to show the reader where he or she should be focused and provides a good lead in to what the Riddler does next. Page 6 shows Falcone’s mansion and it’s pristine in white, as is his suit, showing that he’s pure, which he is not. 16 & 17 and 18 & 19 are gorgeous with colors as they show all the villains that this story will, eventually, involve. The latter two pages look the best due to the background being a lighter color than 16 & 17. Overall grade: A-

The letters: Narration, dialogue, sounds, transmissions, the story’s title and credits, yells, the Joker’s unique speech font, and several characters’ names on the final page, and the tease for next issue are credited to VC’s Clayton Cowles. The difference between Bruce’s narration and the dialogue is slight, but there, and I’m always pleased when a letterer does this. The Joker’s thin font for his speech matches his build and it also connotes a high pitch for his voice. Only the Joker’s gun provides any sounds for this issue and they are big and bold for their violent actions. Overall grade: A

The final line: A visual feast as the story continues to build to war. Enjoyable, but two back-to-back issues of story building has me expecting a major confrontation among the villains. My grade could change based on how this saga concludes. Overall grade: A-

To purchase a digital copy go to https://www.comixology.com/Batman-2016-26/digital-comic/521197?ref=c2VhcmNoL2luZGV4L2Rlc2t0b3Avc2xpZGVyTGlzdC9pdGVtU2xpZGVy

To see both covers go to my Instagram account: patrickhayesscifipulse

Patrick Hayes was a contributor to the Comic Buyer's Guide for several years with "It's Bound to Happen!" and he's reviewed comics for TrekWeb and TrekCore. He's taught 8th graders English for 20 years and has taught high school English for five years and counting. He reads everything as often as he can, when not grading papers or looking up Star Trek, Star Wars, or Indiana Jones items online.
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