Voiceless It Cries, Wingless Flutters. Toothless Bites, Mouthless Mutters…

“‘If you do it right,’ — and by right she meant Proper. Prepared. Practiced. — “‘If you do it right, it can save you.'”

Batman #29

The “War of Jokes and Riddles” enters its fourth chapter in Batman #29 as Tom King places his chess pieces together at the dinner table. The brutality with which Joker and Riddler have warred with one another has taken its toll. Gotham is bleeding and Bruce Wayne takes it upon himself to give the most likely Batman killer a billion dollar prize. It seems Batman has finally set his trap, using both personas to play the warring wordsmiths against one another.

With only a few panels of action, Batman #29 is Tom King’s most dialogue-heavy installment yet. He may repeat a phrase or two for nuance, but he stays away from his usual repetitiveness to great effect. The banter is worthy of any classic gangster film; the art is understated yet bright and lively. King’s Grayson cohort Mikel Janin is once again creating pages of eye-popping pencils with Hugo Petrus on inks and a criminally underrated colorist in June Chung.

Together the team craft the story’s present while painting the backgrounds with everything from characters’ thoughts to their memories. An interesting way to keep the reader turning the page during a lengthy dinner scene. Each course is drawn to delicious detail, leaving us hungry for more.

A War Of Words

The “War of Jokes and Riddles has been vastly different from King’s previous Batman arcs.  It’s lengthy, structured in a poetic fashion, and almost completely devoid of typical comic action. The showdown between Deadshot and Deathstroke in the previous issue was intense and almost terrifying, and yet lacked almost any real-time fisticuffs. King has used an omniscient point-of-view to tell this story, as if we’re reading the grand tale about how the world came to be. The “War of Jokes and Riddles is starting to resemble the Wars of Roses and a certain Song of Ice and Fire. World-building has been Tom King’s intention all along. Setting the stage to define his Gotham as he sees fit.

The last few panels give clues as to what Bruce and Bats will do to bring this war to a close. He’s seen as much destruction as any man, both personal and as a citizen of his beloved home. His family has a reputation for saving this city. Despite his last arc, Scott Snyder’s Batman spent very little time as his other persona. As we get to know his Batman it’s a treat Tom King is willing to introduce his Bruce Wayne as well.

The Verdict

Despite the recent massacres and city-wide destruction, it’s a quiet night in Gotham. The mansion on the hill plays host to Gotham’s most unique dinner party in years. Tom King sits his opposing kings, Joker and Riddler, down to break bread with the city’s prodigal son, Bruce Wayne. This historical approach works perfectly. Depicting this War in a way that makes it feel truly legendary, as if history is unfolding each issue. King’s Riddler is so good one hopes the writer can find time for the character in Batman’s present as well.

Mikel Janin once again crafts the tangled webs of King’s prose. As the story weaves through a simple conversation, both writer and art team use the often-ignored backgrounds to channel emotion and insight. It’s an effective and resourceful way to make use of the entire page. With thought-provoking backgrounds and and almost-biblical prose, King and company are making their way into comic history.


Comic Book Review: Batman #29
The Score10
  • Uniquely Historical Approach
  • Excellent Characterization, Especially The Riddler
  • Captivating Art with Insightful Backgrounds
  • 2 Weeks Until #30!
10Overall Score
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