batman #26
BATMAN #26 depicts a gripping, thrilling narrative that will leave you anticipating the continuation of this contemporary tale.
85 %
Engrossing and dramatic
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Beware, potential spoilers for previous BATMAN issues below!

BATMAN #25 showcases an alliance between two of Batman’s most iconic villains, the Joker and the Riddler, since neither of them can find humor or purpose in their lives. So, the two seek a new direction. The Riddler proposes a partnership with The Joker, having the sole objective being the murder of Batman. Unsurprisingly, things turn sour, and the issue concludes with Joker shooting Riddler in the chest. At the end of the issue, we realize the story of “The War of Jokes and Riddles” is a retrospective one, narrated by Bruce Wayne to Selina Kyle. This mode of storytelling continues in BATMAN #26, conveying its tale with an ominous tone.

Bruce Wayne seems to convey a hero’s guilt, feeling as though his crime-fighting actions aren’t enough. Despite all the lives he’s saved and all the villains he’s incarcerated, he’ll always focus on those lives lost in the process as well as Batman’s potential contribution to Gotham City’s rise in crime. As a result of this retrospection, writer Tom King succeeds in implementing a unique narrative form and increasing the anticipation for the all-out war that’s soon to come.

batman #26
BATMAN #26 page 21. Image courtesy of DC Entertainment.

The War of Jokes and Riddles II: The Wrath of Joker

Like the previous issue, BATMAN #26 shifts focus from Batman in favor of detailing the actions of Joker and Riddler. The issue commences with Riddler recovering from his gunshot wound, sporting a scar in the middle of his chest that he decides to fashion into a question mark. He then proceeds to publicly announce his desire to kill Joker, something the Joker counters by demanding that Carmine Falcone executes the Riddler within an hour.

READ: Missed the last issue? Take a look at our review of BATMAN #25 here!

Falcone and his henchman fail to do so. As a result, the Joker kills many of Falcone’s men and reasserts his demands. A standout aspect of this issue is the depiction of a somber Joker. He appears lifeless and void of humor since he taps into his wrath to guide his operations and dark plans. As a result, this humorless Joker is more terrifying than the familiar version. He no longer operates by a calculated plan. Ultimately, The Joker’s wrath exudes a heightened irrationality and apathy towards human life.

batman #26
BATMAN #26 page 15. Image courtesy of DC Entertainment.

The Return of The Riddler

On the other side of this multifaceted war, we have the Riddler. He seems to be in the process of recruiting people to his anti-Joker cause, and it appears Poison Ivy is among these potential allies. Riddler’s current demeanor differs significantly from Joker’s. He seems much more composed, approaching his tactics in a collected manner. He contrasts Joker’s impulsiveness, favoring direct communication and less violence in acquiring allies. On the other hand, the Joker is simply using violence to manipulate others to work for him. This juxtaposition demonstrates the depth of Batman’s enemies. Though they may operate on opposing sides, they do so through varying tactics and strengths. These villains, particularly Joker and Riddler, are not one-dimensional clichés; and it’s because of that fact that they’re worthy adversaries of the Dark Knight.

READ: Dig into the parallels between THE INCREDIBLES and WATCHMEN here!

The Many Hues of BATMAN #26

Perhaps the most unique aspect of this issue is the lack of Batman. He’s primarily depicted through belated arrivals to various crime scenes. He narrates details of each victim, relaying information about their loved ones. Batman appears defeated in a way, losing confidence in himself as a superhero. It’s rare to witness Batman with such a negative perception of himself, and I’m intrigued to see where his character goes from here. His retrospective narrative is grim, leaving us to wonder how tragic this impending war will prove to be.

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BATMAN #26 page 20. Image courtesy of DC Entertainment.

Mikel Janin’s art in this work is particularly realistic, which proves fitting for the dark content of the narrative. His depiction of the Joker sporting a frown is quite terrifying and accentuates his change in character. Perhaps the most notable piece is the montage of various Batman villains. Companioned with Bruce’s ominous tone, the art in this sequence ties the issue together. Janin emphasizes the dominance of both Riddler and Joker while also indicating Batman’s solitude in facing so many enemies alone throughout his career.

READ: Look back on the latest season of GOTHAM, here!

Looking Ahead

BATMAN #26 continues to build towards “The War of Jokes and Riddles” without rush. Though Batman’s presence is noticeably lacking, the focus on the Riddler and the Joker is satisfying and, ultimately, necessary. If there’s a war coming, we need to understand everyone’s motives and ambitions, even if they stem from psychotic tendencies.

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