Image by DC Comics/CBR
Damn, now THAT was an issue. Things start to roll and Gotham’s underworld is now taking sides. Tension. Drama. All that good stuff.
Bruce continues to act as the narrator as he tells Selina (whom he just proposed to) as to how Gotham’s underworld began to change. I thought this was important to note because this goes back to the chicken and egg question that I have seen debated on various online fora. Did Batman create his villains or did his enemies create him? It seems as though Tom King’s run is establishing that in this continuity, he is of the former and that it is Batman’s presence is what led to the rise of this new breed of supercriminal. This idea was first planted in issue #25 when we see Riddler try to convince the Joker to work together. Riddler’s logic was that Batman was not like the city law enforcement and that his presence meant that was going to be different. He believed that they had to go bigger and that individuals such as he and Joker were beyond the common garden variety criminal. Given their appearances, he tried to sell the idea that crime could be bigger, more grandiose. Basically, Riddler thinks that he and Joker should take inspiration from the Dark Knight and respond with a ‘diss track’.
This idea is revisited at the end of issue #26 with Bruce telling Selina ‘They called me The Dark Knight. The World’s Greatest Detective. Gotham’s Superhero.” In the back, we see a variety of profiles of victims who died at the hands of Joker, Riddler, Scarecrow, and others. The collage behind Bruce and Selina establishes that Bruce is no longer dealing with a common criminal who took a bad turn in life. The faces of the victims range from diverse backgrounds, reflecting today’s more diverse population. It also shows that these new criminals are indiscriminant in their targets which makes it harder for the police (and possibly, Batman) to track them down.
Going back to the Riddler just after he had his Batman 89 moment, we see Eddie look at himself in the mirror. He carves a letter ‘R’ on his chest. I thought this seen was important to note because this is when Eddie realizes that he cannot trust the Joker because he already showed him who he was. In a sense, it is a blessing because he did not stab Eddie in the back. Scorpion and the Frog and all that. This is still early in their careers so we have to give Edward some slack. That does not stop Riddles from trying to gain allies.
Another bit I thought was intriguing as the difference in which Edward and Joker make their presence known. The announcer reports that Riddler left his signature on the wall of Gotham Plaza while the Joker contacts Carmine Falcone directly. I thought it was interesting to see that here, Edward makes his announcement in a public space while Joker uses a more subtle approach. We are used to the characters doing the opposite, Joker being the more theatrical of the two while Riddler being the more nebulous one. I really like twists on origin stories if they are surprising and make sense. I am intrigued with the idea of Riddler being the more theatrical early in his career. First off, it isn’t entirely out there. Frank Gorshin’s version is definitely an influence here. Secondly, a twist on what we know can make the characters still feel refreshed. Maybe at some point in the story, we will see how Riddler’s penchant for the theatrical comes back to hurt him with Joker looking and thinking how he can do better. Note how Riddler’s look is a lot more subdued compared to his peers.
This scene is emphasized by the Gil Castro of Gotham Institute who states, ‘We assess, that in our experience, for the Riddler, this is uh, we assess this to be atypical’. This is still early enough in their appearances that experts have an idea of who he is enough to anticipate his next move. Yet here, Edward flips their theories around. His change in MO has thrown their research out the window. This makes him intriguing. Edward keeps the doctors and the readers guessing.
We see Eddie try to convince Pam to join him. He tries to get her to get on his side by saying that Joker promised ‘scorched Earth’. Artist Mikel Janin’s beautiful pencils are stellar. I like how I can’t really tell if Pam I looking at Eddie and thinking ‘Wow, that a-hole said that?’ or ‘You actually believe Joker would do that?’ She is not the only one he reaches out to. Which leads me to the penultimate six pages. On one, we see Edward set predominantly in the background with some friends. The other has Joker and the other rogues. Let’s do a countdown on their rosters. On Team Riddler we have Zsasz, Scarecrow, Two Face, Croc, Clayface, Deathstroke, and Firefly. On Team Joker, we have ManBat, Deadshot, Mad Hatter, Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum, Scarface, Solomon Grundy, and Mr. Freeze. I noticed that Edward’s team is composed of rogues who have muscle or have dangerous weapons. On the other hand, the one who has muscle on Joker’s Team is Grundy. Deadshot, Freeze, and Scarface are the only ones with guns.
I don’t think Joker was as diplomatic as Edward when it came to finding allies. He called Pengy ‘Fatman’. I could almost hear the Stewie Griffin snarkiness.
I think those would look great as posters. The art is gorgeous. Solid issue all round. I am going to get the issues and trade.