Batman #32 Review: Catwoman Answers the Dark Knight's Question
“What’s the difference between a joke and a riddle?” We don’t know, but it probably involves a justification for dragging out a yes or no response for about four months. This week’s Batman #32 wraps up the flashback story, “The War of Jokes and Riddles” before giving us Catwoman’s answer to Batman’s proposal. There are full spoilers ahead, so consider yourselves warned!
She said yes, because of course she did. It wouldn’t have been news if Selina Kyle had simply turned down the proposal. That’s the cynical outlook. This non-cynic appreciated that Tom King and Mikel Janin made it such an emotional payoff. King even trusted Janin to make at least two pages work in complete silence as Selina comforted Bruce through the recollection of his darkest moment.
All along, Bruce has told Selina that she may not want to marry him if she knew the truth about what he did to end the Joker and the Riddler’s deadly conflict. King and Janin even addressed the toll of that war in this issue with a double page spread of nothing but their victims and the way that they died. It wasn’t subtle, but it did effectively lead Batman to a state of mind where he was willing to kill. That’s his secret. The Dark Knight isn’t a knight at all, and even he’s not sure how different he is from the criminals that he catches. “Batman doesn’t kill” is one of the core tenets of the character, and this violates that.
On one hand, Batman’s momentary weakness isn't fully believable, but on the other hand, it’s kind of masterful. Now, Batman not only knows that he’s capable of murder, but he owes the Joker for saving him from taking that step. It’s close enough to be true to Batman’s character while adding another dimension to him. The story may have taken a little bit too long to get to that point, but there’s some intriguing material there.
It can't be said enough about Janin’s artwork in this issue. He is phenomenal, and clearly on his way to being an even bigger star in the comic book industry. It’s no accident that Janin is on DC’s flagship title with King. The scripts have been very good, but Janin’s art elevated every issue he contributed to. Together, King and Janin feel like they’re on the verge of crafting one of the all-time great Batman runs. “The War of Jokes and Riddles” doesn’t quite reach those heights, but it did find new things to say about Batman, Joker, Riddler, and even Kite Man. Kite Man? “Hell yeah.” That line turned out to be a great callback throughout the entire story. King’s given Kite Man his own tragic story and turned a joke of a supervillain into a compelling creation. After that, We kind of want to see what he can do with Condiment King.
Superhero comics are cyclical, and there will come a time when someone undoes the story that King and Janin laid out here. But that’s for the future to worry about. For now, this is an excellent foundation for the stories to come, and a great conclusion to this stage of King’s run.
Images: DC Comics