Batman #28 from DC Comics by writer Tom King and artists Mikel Janín and June Chung is the next part in The War of Jokes and Riddles Bat-event, as Bruce continues his post-coital story of his biggest early failure in his career as Batman.
This issue features Batman being pushed far enough to almost kill, an all-out battle between Deathstroke and Deadshot, and a classic Catwoman appearance.
Sadly, it's also so far the weakest issue in the arc by far.
Anyone who's followed my reviews of prior issues know I have thoroughly enjoyed King's run on Batman, and indeed this particular arc. But sadly, I found this particular issue lacking. Especially coming off the stronger opening act, and the absolutely incredible aside issue following Kite-Man which I would have given a thoroughly glowing review if I wasn't neck-deep in SDCC shenanigans that week.
(Honestly, taking the essentially joke character of Kite-Man and revealing a dark, powerful and horrifyingly sad origin story was a masterpiece, and a highlight of King's run. Check it out).
The issue is largely structured much the same as previous entries, but the falling down comes in how much of this story is told rather than shown.
The Deadshot and Deathstroke showdown is built up as something huge and terrible, with a broad and monstrous collateral damage. Problem is, while Janín's artwork is certainly as lovely as ever, with colours expertly handled by Chung, the battle is ostensibly shown in double page spreads and then explained by King/Batman in terms of the body count. We don't really see this body count or any kind of visual representation of it.
Which has the effect of making it just read like statistics in a newspaper. Which, yes, terrible, but loses some of the drama in a visual medium. After all, if the TV show Game of Thrones didn't show the Red Wedding and instead had Varys give a wordy breakdown of what happened it wouldn't had as deep an impact.
As a result, it makes Batman's reveal that he nearly killed Deadshot in a beating less powerful. It's a shame, as it should be huge and another major failure of Batman in his own moral structure. It's still thematically powerful and works, but it just didn't have that…punch.
It also doesn't make much sense that Deadshot and Deathstroke go on such a callous killing spree, even if those deaths are meant to be collateral damage and accidental. They are meant to be the best mercenaries in the world, and both are more known as deliberate actors not spray and pray style killers. So while I can buy that they'd be hired by each side in the battle, and take the job of killing Batman, for them to wilfully slaughter blindly feels a tad out of character for them, and makes them seem less skilled at their job.
These gripes aside, the issue still looks great, and it does have some good moments. The scene with Batman checking in on Catwoman during the War is nice, looking beautiful and really building on the sexual tension between the two lovers.
This kind of wobble can often happen in the middle of a story, and not every beat will hit as well as the others. I have faith that we'll get back on track for the rest of this event, but sadly, this particular issue left me a little…wanting.