Batman #26 The War begins...
#26 is another issue which is rather light on Batman. Instead we get a lot of Joker and the Riddler. Which seems like it may be the case for a lot of this arc! Thankfully, the writing in this issue (and the previous) has ensured that this is not a problem.
The issue is very dour- not a lot of fun is to be had in Gotham at this stage. We are shown just how volatile these characters are, especially the Joker. They both leave a trail of bodies in their wake. Both sides have begun to recruit their teams and anyone unwilling to help or anyone who gets in the way is quickly disposed of.
The Joker is a force of chaos. Even in how mob bosses react to him, we know how scary he can be. While the Riddler uses manipulation to recruit to his army, the Joker seemingly uses fear. At least for the gangsters within this issue he does. This Joker has been written perfectly, the only thing that is missing is his smile. However, considering that is the whole point of this arc, we can easily give it a pass. The Joker wants to get his laugh back but he can't enjoy anything until he has disposed of Batman. Meanwhile the Riddler wants to solve the mystery of the Batman- by also killing him. Hence we have this clash.
Seeing the Joker not smiling is very unsettling. In fact, it is perhaps even creepier than he is with a smile. This is personified by the fantastic artwork of Mikel Janin. We get two incredible splash pages of the two sides of this war. In them we get to see a peak of Janin's take on multiple Bat-villains. He is one of the best artists in the business right now and Batman's rogues gallery are some of the most exciting characters for an artist to work on (in my humble opinion). So, this gets me very hyped to see what he can do with them!
Its easy to forget that this whole story is being told from Bruce Wayne's perspective. He narrates it and we also get a closing shot of him speaking to Catwoman in the modern day. He's telling this story because it is one of his darkest secrets, however, so far we still aren't sure of what the secret is. Is it just that he wasn't able to stop this war quick enough? Did he not do enough? Or, more likely, is it something much deeper? Only time will tell! The narration is a nice touch because you can sense his bitterness and regret throughout. Even by naming the victims throughout we can tell that this whole war hurt him deeply.
I find this whole noir story arc to be very cinematic and although we've just begun it, I think it could be ripe for adaption. In this current DC film universe, we skipped the early days of Batman, so perhaps one day we could get an adaption of this? To show us the origin of some of the Rogues gallery?
Anyway, I'm giving this issue an A for the excellent writing by Tom King and an A for the artwork, by Mikel Janin.
Bonus: for fans of the Burton Batman films, keep an eye out for a callback to 1989’s Batman in a scene showing the state of mind that Nygma is now in...