Review: BATMAN (Vol. 3) #32
AUTHOR: John Bierly (Follow @JOHNBIERLY)
DATE: October 4, 2017

SYNOPSIS: “THE WAR OF JOKES AND RIDDLES” finale! This is the finale everyone will be talking about for years to come! In BATMAN #24, we gave you the question; in BATMAN #32, you get the answer. As the Riddler and The Joker desperately fight for supremacy in Gotham City, Batman reveals how far he had to go to end the war. Now, knowing Batman’s greatest sin, Catwoman must make her decision: Will she marry Batman?

With BATMAN #32, writer Tom King crafts a conclusion that capably and confidently launches “The War of Jokes and Riddles” into the Batmosphere, where it will forever share an orbit with classic long-form stories like THE LONG HALLOWEEN and DARK VICTORY. It's the perfect ending that gives you everything you need but still leaves you wanting more, more, more.

At the end of issue #24, Bruce Wayne asked Selina Kyle to marry him. Issue #25 began his telling to her of "what I did, what I had to do, during the War of Jokes and Riddles," and, in the seven issues since, that mystery has kept us as invested as all of our wondering and worrying if she said "Yes." We begin with our lovers sitting on the edge of a bed, where artist/inker Mikel Janín and colorist June Chung say more with postures, hues, and shadows than any words could ever do. Bruce is buckling under the weight of telling Selina the last of it, and King and his team hammer it home by following with two whole pages of names and images of innocents who died along the way.

The next page sets the stage with three widescreen panels of a determined Riddler who's ready to rock, a surly Joker whose scowl means murder, and a Batman who's a million miles beyond finished with both of them. We get one more impossibly handsome moment of Bruce/Selina body language before being dropped into a fray that rages for pages. Janín's unique layouts give the battle energy and urgency, and then it's up-to-bat for letterer Clayton Cowles, who's been an unsung hero of this story (including, regrettably, by me).

The Riddler does most of the talking; when it comes to turning his thin-lipped grimaces into grins, The Joker has done everything short of hiring Bell Biv DeVoe to croon "When Will I See You Smile Again," but he stays mostly quiet (except for some hilarious asides that hint he's getting his groove back). Batman is quiet, too, for reasons all his own, as Edward Nygma's despicable diatribe leads to...

In the words of Kite-Man, "Hell, Yeah!"

And that's all I'll say.

Everyone's in top form here. I keep using the word "handsome," but I can't think of a better way to describe what Janín and Chung have put on these pages. Action and emotion are rendered perfectly and powerfully, and the final pages are just absolute show-stoppers. (Have Bruce and Selina ever looked this good together?)

But the wonderful wizard behind the curtain is Tom King, who has done so, so much to bring heart, heroics, and humanity to the pages of BATMAN. From the beginning, King made the war real by making the death toll personal to the readers and to Bruce Wayne. He made sure we knew the players, from the Falcone crew that found itself plant food for Poison Ivy to Kite-Man's murdered son to the innocent Gotham citizens who fell in the line of fire. I'm still sick at my stomach from the ending of issue #28, where Batman and Gordon stand silently on a rooftop, ruminating on how Deadshot is stable in a hospital after an 8-hour miracle surgery while 28 people died during his five-day melee with Deathstroke. This was never just a silly battle of bad guys, and that's really all King ever had to do to sell some comics. Instead, he took it deeper, and he made it hurt harder, and he brought us like a boss to this incredible finale where everyone gets what's coming to them.

I can't say enough about how much “The War of Jokes and Riddles” has affected me. I've felt this story in my bones, in my gut, and in my heart. Every issue got better, and the ending is the best. We'll be talking about this one for a long time to come, and I'll long be haunted by its tragedies, its triumphs, and its bittersweet beauty. Bravo, Tom King and company. BATMAN doesn't get any better than this. - John Bierly


John Bierly still can't believe he
gets to write for BOF.
Check out JOHNBIERLY.COM to read about the other things he writes about.

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