In Review: Batman #28

The visuals are stronger than the story, which finally has a bit of the war for the reader to see.

The covers: The Riddler and Joker are playing a deadly game of cards with Gotham City hanging in the balance. The pair are playing the city’s villains against one another, with the clown prince of crime putting down the ace of spades — Batman. Great symbolic Regular cover by interior artist Mikel Janín. Both players look great and the cards fantastic. Side note to DC Comics, I’d pay some serious cash for a deck of cards that featured these images! The Variant cover is the one I had to purchase, however, because it featured art by Neal Adams and coloring by Hi-Fi. How could anyone refuse a cover by Adams, let alone a Batman cover by Adams? This is an awesome illustration of the Dark Knight hanging off the side of a building. The hero looks excellent and the background is just as strong. The coloring is also good, with bright yellows used for the city streets, giving this image an instant feel for the evening. Overall grades: Regular A and Variant A+

The story: The third part of “The War of Jokes & Riddles” by Tom King opens with James Gordon preparing for his trip to see the Riddler and the Joker. For the Joker, he’s forced to strip to his underwear, while the Riddler wants his hands and feet in chains with his head covered. He walks the street alone to the Joker’s and he’s escorted by two rifle totting thugs to the Riddler. The Joker is the only one to speak at his headquarters, giving a creepy joke, surrounded by those villains who’ve chosen to side with him. There’s much more dialogue at the Riddler’s abode, where those that follow him try to answer one of his puzzlers. Gordon is allowed to leave both locations and he meets Batman in their usual location to discuss what the villains want to end the war. What Gordon wants to do isn’t unexpected, nor is Batman’s response, though what is surprising is that Catwoman enters the tale, dealing with a villain that was the focus in an earlier issue. She’s in this story for a few more pages, as well as shown in the present, until the book finally delivers what the readers want. This saga has been titled a war, but there’s not been much of it shown on the page. The majority of the action is shown in double-paged spreads that summarize the terror the city is experiencing. Finally King gives the reader some of this destruction: Deadshot and Deathstroke tussle. What each is supposed to do before fighting is cool and the reason for their sparring good. The final three pages of the book show a Batman that’s not often explored, and I salute King for going in that direction, but I want to experience more of the war that the story promises. I’m enjoying this, but not loving it. Overall grade: B-

The art: There’s no faulting the visuals by Mikel Janín because they are stellar. The opening is a bit bumpy, as the layout of the first page is momentarily confusing, as the narration follows one conversation, but Gordon is changing for two different meetings. A background for the two separate dressings would have alleviated this. However, this is remedied on the next two pages with Gordon being in different dress and it’s easier to follow. Pages 4 and 5 are sensational in showing the villains’ lairs and the rogues who follow them. Kite Man and Catwoman’s entrances into the story are spectacular, with Selina sporting her purple outfit from the 1990s. The top of Page 10 is gorgeous for the way both characters are posed and the highly detailed setting that Janín has created. The page that follows this is spectacular, as it resonates on the pair’s current relationship. The show stopper of the issue, though, is when Deadshot and Deathstroke start fighting. The layout for the first two panels on 13 is beautiful and the double-paged spread on 14 and 15 is poster worthy. Seeing these two characters battle one another is epic — and Batman isn’t even involved yet! What the Caped Crusader is doing is shown on 16 and 17 and it’s equally spectacular. The emotional release on 19 is okay, but could have been more emotional had all of the character been seen, rather than just a bust shot. The visuals are what’s keeping this story running. Overall grade: A-

The colors: June Chung makes her presence known on the first three pages with an absolutely electric blue for the background and sky. This color allows Gordon’s skin and prison jumpsuit to pop out for the reader. It also is an excellent optimistic color to highlight the grays and browns of a broken Gotham. Seeing Catwoman wearing purple again is one of the best things that I’ve seen in a Batman comic in decades; it certainly stands out more than the grays she wore for her own Year One decades ago. When the story shifts to the present to show Bruce and Selina the colors are very vivid, highlighting for the reader that the story is no longer in the past. The colors when Deadshot and Deathstroke go at it are stunning. Explosions and smoke look realistic and the characters’ bright clothes make them eye catchers. The colors used on 16 and 17 are also highly realistic and make Batman’s actions all the more valiant. Chung is aces on this issue. Overall grade: A+

The letters: Dialogue, Joker speak, sounds, yells, a scream, and the story’s title and end credits are crafted by Clayton Cowles. His dialogue is easy to read, and it’s neat to see that Joker gets his own unique font to show that his words are visually unhinged. The sounds are the strong points of Cowles’s work, with Kite Man’s entrance is perfection. Overall grade: A

The final line: The visuals are stronger than the story, which finally has a bit of the war for the reader to see. I’m interested where this is going, but has me thinking of Ian Malcolm from Jurassic Park, “Now, eventually your do plan to have dinosaurs on your, on your dinosaur tour, right?” I’m still waiting for the war. Overall grade: B+

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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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