In Review: Batman #25

A great start to the villains' war, but nothing more on the proposal.

The covers: Two covers to find on this opening installment of “The War of Jokes & Riddles.” The Regular cover is by the interior artist and colorist, Mikel Janín. Batman faces the reader with his head down, hiding his eyes. There’s blood on his chin and face, as well as his cowl. Behind him is a giant playing card featuring his image, with the words “HA HA HA” written on it. Next to it is a handwritten note stating, “Riddle me this, Riddle me that — Who’s afraid of the big black bat?” Even without the title atop this image, a reader would know who the two villains are for this issue. Great, moody piece from Janín, but he’s always aces, in my book. The Variant cover is by Tim Sale, with colors by Brennan Wagner. On a white cover, with the Batsignal in the center, the Joker and the Riddler are back to back, each with a gun in their hands, as if they’re about to begin marching forward for a duel. The characters and the title of the book are in violet. This grabbed my attention instantly as I spied the books for this week and. As much as I like Janín, this was the one I purchased. Overall grades: Regular A and Variant A+

The story: Spoiler out of the gate, Batman is on one page and Bruce and Selina on the final page. If one was looking for more story on the proposal that occurred last issue, it will not be found in this issue. Instead, writer Tom King has Bruce telling a story from his past to Selina. The story is the battle between the Joker and Riddler, and it lasted for several months. The issue starts with a man on a stage telling a joke. An unseen man in the audience doesn’t like the joke and shoots the performer. Another person takes the stage and is asked to “clear the stage” before he begins. When the new man returns, the unseen judge says, “All right. Go ahead, Mr. Feder. I’m ready to laugh.” The story then moves to Gotham Penitentiary where the Riddler has been locked up for a year. He’s being asked by an officer about a current case, as he’s been used by other members of the GCPD when they had crimes they couldn’t solve. Nigma’s answers make the officer upset, who starts to leave until the criminal asks him to return and then tells a riddle. Things don’t well for the officer after this. This issue considerably updates the Riddler. He’s not wearing his costume, which helps, and his tone is as deadly as the Joker’s, even if he doesn’t have the frightening face. The way in which he’s able to leave the prison unharmed on Pages 11 and 12 is outstanding. The Joker’s exit from the club where he’s judging comedians is okay, though fairly predictable. His dialogue and actions here sets him for the rest of the issue, which makes him fairly uninteresting compared to the Riddler, who comes calling. Why this iconic killer is feeling this way is, again, predictable, but his actions with the Riddler are not. This issue justifies why the two villains start a war, and it’s believable, but I’m more interested in Bruce and Selina, after last issue, than a flashback tale. Overall grade: B

The art: Doing both pencils and inks is Mikel Janín. The opening three pages show he can create a tense situation based solely on his visuals. The first page establishes that the man is nervous about being on stage, the second page shows why, and the final page shows how long this competition has been going on. Giving Janín three pages to show this sequence gives him plenty of time to create a terror filled tone. The three pages that follow also keep the villain hidden from the reader, though more of the Riddler is shown than the Joker. It’s not until the character makes a dramatic move atop Page 6 is the character entirely seen, and it’s such a violent move it solidifies him as a monster. Pages 7 – 9 move to the exterior of the club where the Joker is located. The setting is really well done here, with the panels at the bottom of 8 and 9 being outstanding. Throughout the book, the backgrounds are stellar, with the double-paged spreads of 18 – 19 and 20 -21 being awesome. These four pages are also a superior way to showcase both villains. Their conversation is fantastic; each character is more than capable of holding a reader’s attention, but cutting back and forth between the two shows them to be equals. This really ups the Riddler’s strength, since he’s the one that came to the Joker. When he leans in tightly to the Clown Prince of Crime the tension is amazing, culminating in a spectacular four panel sequence on 24. It’s a little difficult to make out what’s occurring on Page 26. The text makes it easy to follow, but looking solely at the visual, this takes a moment. The full-page splash on the penultimate page is outstanding, as it shows all the villains who will be involved with this war, and it promises much for the issues that follow. The visuals on this book are good, with the characters and the settings very realistic. Overall grade: A-

The colors: If a reader has been to a theater, he or she will recognize the shade of red used for the curtain on the opening page. It’s also a great color to foreshadow the violence encountered on the second page. Considering that this book is primarily set in the dark, June Chung uses a lot of different colors that stand out. Check out the clothes of the officer that’s trying to get information from Nigma; it’s pitted and stained as one would expect from someone in the GCPD. The bottom panel on 5 is the image a camera catches and it’s starkly colored. The purple glove that’s seen on 8 is enough to telegraph to readers the identify of this villain. Pages 11 – 13 uses a dead crimson as borders for a sequence, adding a heavy tone to what is being insinuated — it’s great. A car appears for three pages and it, too, is given a red color, to help it stand out from others on the street as well as to keep the tone deadly. The pages where the Riddler and Joker speak are pretty dark, but Chung uses every shade of blue to create the night, rather than blacks that would smother Janín’s art. The brightest page of the book is 27 and that’s because it’s the teaser for this war between the villains. It’s fantastic. Overall grade: A

The letters: Clayton Cowles creates narration and dialogue (the same font because the narration is telling this story), sounds, two very different types of laughter, and the story’s title and the book’s credits. The font used for the dialogue is very thin, very metropolitan, which suits the denizens of Gotham City well. The sounds are big, especially for gunshots, and the laughter is very different from the other fonts of the book. My favorite sound of the issue is a window that’s broken in the end, with the font resembling the action. Overall grade: A

The final line: A great start to the villains’ war, but nothing more on the proposal that ended last issue. I enjoyed this, but felt somewhat cheated. I’ll continue to read, though I’m more interested in Selina’s response and its aftereffects than a flashback tale. Overall grade: A-

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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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