The Joker and Ridder’s violent war finally comes to an end as Riddler’s master plan is revealed. But it all backfires, as the Joker truly gets the last laugh. And with the end of the story told, Bruce Wayne finally reveals to Selina Kyle his darkest secret, his greatest failure as Batman. It’s a shocking moment that will forever change the dynamic for all of them.
“The War Of Jokes and Riddles” Conclusion
Written by: Tom King
Art by: Mikel Janin
Inks by: Mikel Janin
Colors by: June Chung
Lettered by: Clayton Cowles
***WARNING THIS REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS***
Holy shit! That was my first reaction when I finished this issue. Those of you who have been reading this arc know that it’s been building to some kind of huge reveal of an ending, and yes, of course, Catwoman’s answer to the marriage proposal was the bait. But as big as her saying “yes” is, it still wasn’t at the heart of what this arc has really been about (and that detail was spoiled two days ago anyway). What I wasn’t expecting, what makes Tom King instantly one of the most important writers to ever tackle the Dark Knight, is her answer isn’t the only game-changing thing we get. The actual big reveal here is that Batman, early in his career, straight out crossed a line he thought he never would. He fully intended to kill Riddler. He picked up a knife and plunged with all his strength, only to have the Joker put a hand up and stop it from happening. Tom King, in his tenure, has shown us multiple facets of Bruce Wayne; and now he has shown us one rarely if ever, glimpsed. Batman losing control of his emotions, of his actions. Specifically showing us his vulnerability. It’s character-defining, career-high work being done by one of the industry’s best writers in one of the mediums best books.
He has also changed the dynamic of Joker, Riddler, and Batman. If you’ve read the entirety of ‘The War of Jokes and Riddles’, you know Joker had not laughed at all (a fantastic detail that actually made Joker MORE creepy). But now Batman owes the Joker. In stopping him from killing Riddler, Joker essentially saved the Dark Knight’s life. It’s the ultimate joke for the Clown Prince of Crime, the one that finally gets him to laugh, and possibly the one he will continue to laugh at forever.
Riddler is also changed. His whole motive, to get Joker to laugh, shows him to be as disturbed as any member of Gotham’s Rogues can be. He is as much an agent of chaos as Joker is and his whole “I’m always in control” smartest guy in the room demeanor actually hides huge levels of insanity.
And in the end, for Selina, it’s not her answer that that proves her love for Bruce. It’s why she says yes. Her monologue at the end is one of the best pieces of writing I have read from King, and it opens her up in a way I haven’t seen before. This scene at the end is a touching and beautiful sequence that at its base is about just two damaged, vulnerable and lonely people finally coming together.
The art here is a masterclass in pacing and emotions; from the opening two-page spread, a symmetrical grid illustrating many of the victims that died in the course of the s story, to the poignant final full-page image of Catwoman saying yes with tear and make up stained eyes. Mikel Janin is also doing some of the best work of his career.
The coloring really stands out in the bookend scenes with Bruce and Selina. These scenes, bathed in deep blues and dark shadows, really bring out the intimacy of what is going on between the two.
If I had to pick a favorite moment it’s the splash page when Joker final laughs. It’s the perfect combination of pencils, inks, coloring, and lettering. It has great composition and a fantastic layout. It’s worthy of being a framed piece of art.
When all is said and done, any of Tom King’s runs is worthy of being a classic. But ‘The War of Jokes and Riddles’ will be remembered as extra special. It’s one of those arcs, and this is one of those issues, that will be mentioned, written about and talked about when comic fans discuss moments that changed a character forever. It’s really up there with The Killing Joke and The Dark Knight Returns in the pantheon of Batman comics.