This issue is pretty straight forward and predictable, which isn’t something I’ve come to expect from King. Even when I’ve disliked a route he has chosen to take, it’s still been fresh. He’s also typically shown himself to be much more about exploring ideas instead of straight up offering a story that revolves almost entirely around nothing but the plot. But that’s what this issue felt like to me. Seriously plot heavy. It’s almost as if he realized that they weren’t where they needed to be going into the big finale, so they went from point “A” to point “B” in the most direct way possible. I was starting to get that feeling from the last issue, but #31 is even more so to the point, wrapping up the rest of the loose ends that #30 didn’t already deal with.
I know I just said, “in the most direct way possible”. But really, there’s a lot of extraneous stuff thrown in. For instance, the story opens with Joker mentally torturing some guy. While creepy, and a genuinely clever way for the Joker to mess with him, I don’t see how it was all that relevant to the bigger picture. Toward the end of the story, there is another Joker scene with the same guy that seems equally as pointless. Once again, while I didn’t think it was necessary, I did enjoy the gruesome twist on a classic old joke.
Further on in the story, there is also an entire page devoted to Kite Man and Killer Croc discussing his weight. Once again, not really all that pertinent. At least not enough to garner an entire page. It boils down to Kite Man needing to know so he can fit Croc with a glider. It does lead into a reveal on the next page, them all gliding around, but it’s hardly something that needed a buildup. I mean, I’m sure we are all aware of the fact that hang gliders can carry people around.
I hate to use the word, because it has such a negative connotation, but these felt very much like filler to me. It’s as if King didn’t have enough pages space left to really branch out in the way he typically does, so instead he decided to go with a more concise wrap up, but the minimal wrap up wasn’t enough to fill the whole book. Therefore, he added padding to the necessary stuff in order to fill all 20 pages.
I’d even go so far as to say that some of the art is unnecessarily spread out in order to accomplish this same goal. There’s an entire page that’s nothing but the Joker’s face. And then there’s the aforementioned hang gliding scene:
Does this really deserve a two-page spread? I mean, it’s just a bunch of people hang gliding. And there’s so much “pea green soup” coloring covering the page, I’d hardly say it’s even that aesthetically pleasing to look at. Compare it to these two two-page spreads from #28:
It makes sense for these pages to be as big as they were. They are montages encompassing various things, so they need to be big so you can make it all out. Plus, these are much more artistically composed and evocative. When I look at the hang glider spread, it seems to me that it’s little more than an over-magnification on what could have easily been a single panel. There’s even a hang glider shot two pages further in that’s far more dynamic.
The one thing that I did really like from this issue was the way that Batman made Nigma think that the plan they ultimately enacted was Nigma’s idea, when in reality, it’s exactly what Batman wanted him to do. Granted, some of that was just Batman presenting Nigma with the opposite of what he actually wanted to do and hoping Nigma would counter him on it, but I still really liked the way it played out.
I also thought it was interesting that Joker’s knock knock joke from the beginning was intentionally meant to mislead his victim into saying something wrong. But then later, Nigma does the same thing to the Joker, and The Joker falls for it. I would have thought that if the Joker was clever enough to use a knock knock joke in that way, that he would have also been clever enough to know when one was being used against him in a similar way.
This little mental win on the Riddler’s half was a sufficient victory (as far as I’m concerned), and if King had left it at that, I would have been more than happy. After all, the Riddler is all about mental superiority. But then The Riddler proceeds to outmatch The Joker in the physical arena as well. I’m sorry, but The Riddler simply isn’t as skilled in combat as the Joker. Not only do I call shenanigans on the fact that Riddler is being mis-portrayed according to the level of aptitude he has classically been shown to encompass when it comes to fisticuffs, but that physically humiliating The Joker isn’t even something that Riddler would want to do even if he could. Because, once again, the Riddler is all about mental superiority.
Odds and Ends:
- Clayface doesn’t need to breath… Considering King took the time to explain why this still worked against FireFly, I’m somewhat surprised by this oversight.
- Is there a reason why Riddler’s backpack wasn’t sabotaged along with the rest of his team?
Page 18 Joker/mis-colored Riddler
- Page 16 and 17, the Joker is passed out on the floor. Page 18, The Joker is standing up. Page 19, The Joker is on the floor again. Page 20, The Joker is getting up. Actually, I think what happened here is simply that the colorist accidentally colored Nigma in The Joker’s colors. Coloring mistake or continuity error, either way, it’s a mistake.
- You like jokes and riddles. There are 7 of them throughout the story.
- You like plans within plans within plans.
- Kite Man. Hell Yeah! (I think that still applies to this issue)
I don’t think this issue of The War of Jokes and Riddles is King or Janin’s strongest showing. A lot of the plot points seem somewhat extraneous when compared with the bigger picture, and the art for this chapter simply isn’t as inspired as some of Janin’s previous work has been. It’s also not particularly enjoyable for me to have to continue to watch King mishandle characters. He does it often enough that it makes me think one of two things; either he doesn’t know how the characters are actually supposed to act, or he is actively choosing to alter them. I really doubt it’s the former, which leaves me with this to say: I understand that this is King’s take on The Riddler. But a the end of the day, it’s simply too far removed from what the quintessential Riddler is. And that’s usually what causes my biggest gripes. When a writer feels the need to reinvent characters. I’m not impressed by a writer who can change a character into something they aren’t. I’m impressed by a writer that can take a character that has been around for multiple decades and still find a way to make them captivating while simultaneously adhering to who that character has always been, not who they want or need them to be for the sake of their story.
SCORE: 6 / 10