BATMAN #30 By Tom King, Clay Mann, Seth Mann, and Jordie Bellaire
BATMAN #30 follows Charles Brown (AKA Kite Man) as he fights for the Joker against the Riddler. Tom King provides a compelling story filled with drama, emotion, and humor as the "War of Jokes and Riddles" arc continues into its final issues.
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BATMAN #30 continues Tom King’s “War of Jokes and Riddles” with another interlude. The issue is another clever and emotional addition to King’s run on the Dark Knight. It’s also a very unorthodox issue of BATMAN, since the titular Dark Knight only appears on the sidelines.

BATMAN #30 page 3. Image courtesy of DC Entertainment.

Like BATMAN #27 before it, which was another interlude starring Kite Man, this issue studies the criminal conflict through the eyes of the lowest ranking grunt on Joker’s team. I can understand why issues like this can elicit such a divisive reaction since they’re so divergent from typical Batman comics. However, this issue is another example of what King does best, telling an engrossing story with rich characters. What more can you ask for?

READ: To catch up on the adventures of Kite Man, read our review of BATMAN #27 here!

Good Grief!

Charles Brown (AKA Kite Man) has allied himself with the Joker against the Riddler. Yet, now there’s a new fighter entering the ring for team Riddler: Batman. Nobody on Joker’s team is ready to face the combined strength of the Riddler and Batman. This comic shows Batman take down threats as formidable as Mr. Freeze, Man-Bat, and the Mad Hatter without even a scratch on him.

A running joke in this issue features Kite Man going out on patrol with another member of Joker’s team, like the Ventriloquist or the Cluemaster, only for Batman to come out of nowhere and pummel them. Then the villain that was accompanying Kite Man disappears, presumably because Batman takes him to jail. The Dark Knight leaves Kite Man battered and bruised but free to walk home. Apparently, Batman has bigger fish to fry than Charlie Brown, and who can blame him?

Courtesy of DC Entertainment

Slowly and assuredly, Riddler whittles down Joker’s army until only Kite Man and the Clown Prince of Crime remain. In a weird way, the Joker and Kite Man seem to have a sort of kinship throughout this arc. Kite Man is an utterly pathetic character — the only thing he’s good at is flying kites. Kite Man is trying to prove that he is worth something. He wants to show that he can stand with the other grand supervillains of Gotham. However, again and again, he’s reminded that he’s “a joke.”

The Joker, who has had difficulty finding anything funny lately, finds his own champion of humor in Charlie Brown, a man whose life is full of irony. The greatest moment of this comic occurs when Joker makes a proud, zealous speech that evokes Churchill’s “We shall fight them on the beaches.” The comic then reveals that Joker made said speech to a near-empty theater, with only Kite Man in the audience who gives the Joker a thunderous applause. They say that comedy is linked to tragedy and here both Joker and Kite Man look like very tragic figures.

Who’s Afraid of The Big Black Bat?

In BATMAN #29, Bruce Wayne invited both Joker and Riddler over to Wayne Manor to discuss who should receive Batman’s backing in this war. BATMAN #30 reveals that Batman decided to take arms with the Riddler. How did he come to this decision? Was he drawn to Riddler’s sense of logic? Did he think that Riddler was somehow a safer choice? We don’t see Bruce’s thought process in this issue since it is entirely from Kite Man’s perspective. Instead, we see Batman as a force of nature; he’s a dark presence which appears in the night to prey on criminals like Charlie Brown. He comes out of the shadows to beat you up and then instantly disappears. You can totally understand why an average crook would be terrified of Batman.

READ: Love a more traditional Batman adventure? Take a look at ALL-STAR BATMAN #13!

It’s important to remember that this arc is a narrative that Bruce tells Selina Kyle in the present. He foreshadows that he made his greatest mistake during the War of Jokes and Riddles. Is teaming up with the Riddler part of said mistake? Or does Batman do something even worse than taking part in a turf war? I’m curious to see if this affects the character of the Joker. Usually, Batman and Joker have a sort of symbiotic connection. This issue doesn’t show that at all. Does Batman do something to the Joker that helps him rediscover the ability to laugh? We will have to wait until BATMAN #32 to get all our answers, but for now, it’s fascinating to speculate about King’s writing.

Art in BATMAN #30

Courtesy of DC Entertainment

BATMAN #30 has perhaps the best art in the entire “War of Jokes and Riddles” storyline. Clay Mann does a terrific job adding to the themes that King wants to depict. When Batman first comes out wearing a Riddler question mark and punches Kite Man, it’s a shocking revelation greatly enhanced by Mann’s drawing. A lot of this issue is just watching Kite Man getting beaten up by a variety of characters like Two Face, Scarecrow, Joker, and Batman. Through Mann’s art, you feel the pain that Kite Man is experiencing both emotionally as his visor shatters and he bleeds. Every time Kite Man is punched in this issue, it feels like more than a punch but a blow against Brown’s self worth. That’s why Mann pays such attention to the physical actions in this comic.

READ: BATMAN #30 worked because of a combination of Tom King’s unique writing style and Clay Mann’s art. Discover MISTER MIRACLE #1, which also benefited from King’s writing and terrific art!

Kite Man isn’t a completely sympathetic character, but seeing him break down makes you feel pity for the guy. Mann draws this page simply with five panels just focusing on Brown’s face and upper body. The drawings force you to feel for this Z-list character that most people haven’t even heard of. That’s the beauty of Tom King’s arc. He allows you to take a step back and focus on these small character moments. In many ways, these moments can stick with the reader far more than a cool action sequence.

Final Thoughts

BATMAN #30 is another issue where Tom King’s writing shines. This installment has a keen awareness of its characters and the emotional turmoil of war. The art is able to enhance the writing effectively and drives home this story about a man who thinks he’s a joke. For those who don’t think that you could make villains like the Polka-Dot Man or the Condiment King into a compelling character, read this issue!

One Comment

  1. Jacob Packer® (@IsJeromeValeska)

    October 6, 2017 at 9:09 am

    I hope The Joker won, Riddler got all the cool characters (save Kite-man ;p)


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