In Review: Batman #29

This continues to be the most peaceful war I've ever read in a comic book series.

The covers: Mikel Janín has created a fantastic Regular cover that features imagery I wish was in this series. Standing on a tiled floor composed of the Joker and Riddler’s logos, both villains’ minions are rushing at each other, with Batman in the middle. The characters look exceptionally well done, with Poison Ivy stealing much of the thunder with a vine writhing about her and making its way to her opponents. The fiery red background behind the artwork and the sickly green that colors the title make the characters pop. The Variant cover by Tim Sale & Brennan Wagner is an oddly constructed cover, with the far left fourth of the image a night scene of Gotham, complete with Batsignal. It looks cool, but on the right three-quarters is an image of the Dark Knight hanging off of some unknown structure while having a Batarang dangling. Behind him is the moon with a colony of bats flying before it. The coloring for this side of the book is violet. I like both, but would have preferred the focus to be on one of the settings, making the image complete. Overall grades: Regular A and Variant B-

The story: This is an incredible interesting idea for a story. The fourth part of “The War of Jokes & Riddles” by Tom King has Bruce Wayne call both sides to his house for a dinner to discuss if it’s possible for the war to come to an end. Only Bruce, Joker, and Riddler sit at small table, with the villains across from each other, with three of their cronies behind them. The story is broken down by each dish, which is an excellent way to mark the passage of time. As they eat, the villains converse, each taunting the other. When they get down to brass tacks, and Bruce asks what they want to end the war, their answers are the same and their reasons for wanting the object are fantastic. This is a character issue, with nothing seemingly resolved until the final page, when Batman reveals why Bruce chose to host this twisted dinner. The Riddler comes off as the stronger character, as he’s been in the previous issues, and that’s because the Joker’s Debbie Downer — still. Madman Joker is much better than Grumpy Cat Joker, whose attitude brings the story down. Only on Page 13 does the Joker shine and it’s fantastic; though he delivers his greatest wish with nary a smile. A clever story undone by an unfunny clown. Overall grade: B

The art: The visuals are incredible on this issue from Miekl Janín on pencils and Hugo Petrus & Janín on inks. The first page seems as if a comic presentation of Masterpiece Theater is about to begin, with Alfred setting the table. This leads to a fantastic double-paged spread of the villains at the table and in the room; their visuals in complete contrast to the first page and the elegance of the room. Each course of the meal is picture perfect, looking as if the Food Channel is sponsoring the issue. Throughout the book, Janín masterfully goes back and forth between the characters, showing how they react to dialogue, with Page 4 being the first example of this. The next double-page spread is on 10 and 11, showing how the Batman has defeated several of his foes. This leads to the two best pages of the book, 12 and 13. They are set up exactly the same, with one focusing on the Riddler and the other on the Joker. It’s a perfect visual experience to see how each feels about what they want to end the war. The pages are separated by an ad, but really should be looked at side-by-side to appreciate what Janín has done. This parallelism returns for 16 and 17, which is, again, fantastic. By using slim panels, more visuals can be put on the page, allowing Janín to create a great sense of motion for the characters as they speak. These visuals are exceptional. Overall grade: A+

The colors: June Chung is the colorist of this book and she does a good job. The villains’ costumes are eye grabbers against the wood and pale colors of Wayne Manor. Each course has colors that mirror reality, serving as a calm beginning to each chapter of this tale, instantly jilted when one of the garish villains is shown after it appears. There are several flashback panesl and pages with the colors going to black, white, and grays. These work, save for the double-paged spread on 10 and 11 which is so dark in some spots as to make the art unidentifiable. The book ends with some good blues, due to the location, and they are a very different color than that of the ancient mansion. Overall grade: B+

The letters: This book’s dialogue, the Joker’s unique dialogue, story title and credits, and each course are created by Clayton Cowles. I’ve never seen the font used for the courses before and it’s a nice change from what other books use for their text and classes up the dinner considerably. The Joker has a slightly different font from other characters, which is neat, but it implies that he sounds different from other characters and I’m left wondering what that difference is: higher pitch, chittery, or a low bass? It’s not a negative, but something to think about. Overall grade: A- 

The final line: Undeniably readable, but is this going anywhere? This continues to be the most peaceful war I’ve ever read in a comic book series. 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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