Batman #29 review

You are cordially invited to attend a dinner at Wayne Manor on the evening of the 16th with the explicit purpose of bringing a resolution to the ongoing war. Rest assured that neither the Batman nor the GCPD will be in attendance. This dinner is being solely hosted by mister Wayne with the greater good of Gotham in mind. As an incentive to show, Mister Wayne is willing to offer one of you considerable monetary resources with which to aid you in bringing the ongoing hostilities to an end. As such, it’s in your best interest to attend.

repondez s’il vous plait

Guess who’s coming to dinner?!

You may have guessed, but probably wouldn’t believe….it’s The Joker and The Riddler.  And you know where they are having dinner?  At Wayne Manor with Bruce Wayne!!!  How crazy is that!  My initial knee jerk reaction was, “Seriously?”  But once I got into the story, I fell in love with it.  I would have initially thought that there was no way to play this off as anything but absurd, but once you get a look at the whole picture, it’s perfectly reasonable.  Or, as reasonable as things can be in an unreasonable city like Gotham.

There’s absolutely zero action to speak of, but that’s not the real draw here.  It’s seeing the characters interact with one another, getting a window into their perspectives, and really just settling into the wackiness of it all.

My favorite part of the entire issue, without a doubt, is The Joker.  While Nygma happily plays the game that Bruce has set up for them, it seems to me that Joker could care less.  He makes constant juvenile jokes at Riddler’s expense, answers questions with mock answers, and basically seems to have nothing but contempt for the proceedings.

If I had to pick out my single most favorite moment from the entire issue, it would probably be this one right here:

Look how nonchalant and completely callous the Joker is portrayed.  Even more important is the look Bruce gives him.  

  This entire dinner was devised so that Bruce could decide which villain he was going to assist in defeating the other.  I think that this single moment probably made his decision for him.  The Joker simply has no honor or morals to speak of, and while Nygma isn’t an upstanding fellow by any means, he can at least be reasoned with.  The Joker, on the other hand, is as likely to give you a hug as he is to stab you in the back.  If Bruce picks Joker, I’ll be genuinely surprised.  

Throughout this arc, I’ve been thinking a lot about how off-putting and unnerving a non-smiling Joker is.  I’d started to get to the point where I was about to say that scowling Joker is scarier than smiling Joker, but then something happened in this issue that washed that right away.  During dinner, he relays his fantasy about killing Batman.  And right at the end of his story, you see the smallest hint of a smile break across his face.  Yeah, that was creepy as all get-out.

While I love me some Riddler, he was definitely the less entertaining of the two to watch.  He droned on about one thing or the other, and he constantly tried to remind everyone that he is the smartest guy in the room.  And while I get that this is his shtick (and I usually enjoy it), for whatever reason, he just came off as annoying to me this time around.  And halfway through the story, I was actually rooting for The Joker to shut him up.  (But hey, maybe that’s what King was shooting for.)

Aside from that, the only things in this story that I took true issue with came from a couple of the choices King made in regards to Nygma’s character.  At one point, he admits to cutting people’s heads off.  To me, that’s just very un-Riddler like.  He’s just not typically depicted as a very hands-on kind of guy, instead preferring to leave the grunt work to minions and henchmen.  Then again, maybe he is lying and just saying he has in order to save face in front of Joker.  I could see that.

I also didn’t care for this:

Love the attention to detail with the candle flames reacting to the whoosh of the knife going by.

Once again, Nygma is depicted as far too adept in the physical arena.  He’s not a ninja for crying out loud.  I’d be more inclined to believe that he would bat it away with the palm of his hand, or better yet, jerk his head out of the way and have the knife wagging in the seat-back behind him.

Nygma also delivers a speech about how he thinks that Joker isn’t crazy at all, and that he’s just faking it.  If this were somehow confirmed to be true, I could see fans taking real issue with it.  But since it’s just what Nygma surmises, I don’t think Joker fans need to get too up in arms over it.  Incidentally, King said something at one of his Comic Con panels that pertains to this, so I figured I’d share it here.

[Joker] is a perfectly normal person that’s had no real trauma happen to him.  And he is pretending.  But he really wants to be crazy.  I don’t know.  That’s just my take.  It might be wrong.  I just think that’s what makes him the craziest person of all…that he’s not.

If you’re a normal person and you want to do crazy things without having been influenced by outside factors, doesn’t that still kind of make you crazy?

Art for this story is handled by Mikel Janin, and even though I typically consider him to be more of an action oriented artist, I think he did an excellent job here.  As I already said, there’s zero action to speak of.  Instead, the story is carried by the conversations the characters take part in.  With that, it’s even more important to be able to connect with them through their faces.  At times in Janin’s past, I’ve seen him fall into the trap of not altering facial expressions all that much through the course of a given story.  Given that, I was a little worried going into this realizing what kind of story it was going to be.  After all, amazing dialogue can be killed if the character delivering it appears dispassionate by means of a blank stare.  But I’m happy to say Janin really managed to vary things up throughout and allowed the characters to deliver up a lot of subtle nuance through their faces and eyes.

Odds and Ends:

  • I liked how Bruce took point in this issue over Batman.  Reminded me of a lot of the older stories where he would use Bruce or his money as a ruse to flush out a villain and keep innocents free from harm.
  • I’m kind of curious now what kind of connection King has to France.  In a previous issue, he had Bruce eating a burger with a knife and fork, something I’ve only ever seen done before by French people.  And here, we have the whole French dinner.
  • I love the misdirect on the last “joke” that Bruce delivers.  You think he is simply talking about the act of serving criminals dinner, but he is really talking about a laps in etiquette.

Interesting Facts: (Although, for this review, I should probably call this “French Facts”.)

Throughout the course of the story, Bruce Wayne serves The Joker and The Riddler a multi-course French meal.  Considering I actually know something about this, I thought it might be fun to share this facet of my life with you guys and shed some light on things in the process.  It may seem to some of you that I’m about to spend an inordinate amount of time discussing this element of the book, but it’s a large part of the story, so I think it deserves the attention I’m giving it.

As each new course is presented, we are shown two sets of words.  The first word in each sequences is first, second, third, and so on.  Right off the bat, the translation seemed a little off.  In English, when presenting the courses of a meal, we would say “first course”.   And in French, it’s the same thing.  We would say “premier plat”, not just “premier”.  So, to see things labeled as first, second, and third is a little odd.   The second word in each sequences is a description of what is being served.

The first real faux pas is in the use of the word “entree” to define the main dish.  In the US, we typically have appetizers, the entree, and then dessert.  But in France, it’s entree, plat principal, and dessert.  You see, “entree” literally translates to “entrance”.  As such, the entree is the entrance/beginning of the meal.  Granted, this story takes place in America, so I suppose you could say they are going by American standards, but the fact that so much effort was put forth to present a French table setting leads me to believe that this was a mistake as opposed to a conscious choice.  Having said that, I wouldn’t use “plat principal” in this particular situation since we have two main dishes, the fish and the meat.  It would make more sense to call the 4th course “viande”, in the same way that the 3rd course is called “poisson”.

Incidentally, I’m allergic to seafood, so I always found it amusing that the word “poisson” is so close to the word “poison”.

The 5th course presented here is sorbet.  Some of you might be wondering why they had dessert, more food, and then a second dessert.  Well, the sorbet course is designed to help with digestion, in essence, allowing you to eat more food.  It’s typically paired with a liqueur. So, if you were serving sorbet a la pomme, you’d pair it with an apple flavored liqueur and it would often be called “trou normand”.

The 6th course here is a salad.  While this might seem like an odd time to have a salad to American readers since we are accustomed to having it at the beginning of the meal, this is an appropriate location to serve it in regards to French course placements.

The 8th course here is “dessertes”.  I got a chuckle out of this one.  Desserte is one of these things:

It’s designed to assist in serving and clearing off the table after each course.  So, “dessertes” is a whole bunch of these things.  “Dessert” and “desserts” , the sweets course at the end of the meal, is spelled the same way whether it’s in French or English.

At the end, Bruce mentions offering sherry or coffee to the guests after dinner.  Consumption of liquor after the meal is called “digestif”, and like the sorbet course, it aids in the digestion process.

Incidentally, this story skipped over my favorite part of the meal process, aperitif/apero.  This is served before the meal to stimulate the appetite.  It’s the kind of thing you’d have in the drawing room while entertaining arriving guests.  Like the digestif, you serve liquor paired with various items like nuts, pretzels, and other snacky like finger foods.

Personally, I think King could have gone further with this concept.  I’d have actually preferred to have been given specifics as to what was being served.  Since King draws a loose parallel between understanding food/people, it would have been interesting to see the courses designed around the tastes of the guests.  And perhaps, in such a way to put them more at peace with one another.  After all, when we are content and happy, we are more likely to be open to suggestion.

Just so you know, I’m not subtracting any points for the errors I pointed out in this section.  Consider this more of a “just so you know” kind of thing.

Hey DC, if you are reading this and you need help in editorial, just let me know.  (Shameless plug or attempt at humor?  Probably a little of both.)

Recommended if…

  • You want a front row seat to the craziest dinner party you’ve ever seen.
  • You love that Joker!
  • You like French food/culture.  I think if you are familiar with it, you’ll get more enjoyment out of this issue.


This issue is completely bonkers!  And I don’t mean that in the negative sense.  The concept behind this issue is so off-the-wall that it seems like it shouldn’t work at all, but it’s just executed to such perfection that I can’t do anything but applaud it.  Seriously though, other than at an upscale Halloween party, when have you ever seen all these characters sitting down together to have a nine-course French dinner?

SCORE: 9 / 10