As of issue #25, Batman is currently being written by Tom King, and this issue begins the eight-part arc of “The War of Jokes and Riddles,” which will pit the Joker and the Riddler up against each other in a war to see who gets to kill the Batman while Gotham City gets torn apart in the process. A brief background on what has happened in previous issues is necessary to fully understand what is going on. In the four-part crossover between Batman and The Flash, entitled “The Button”, Batman was told by an alternate version of his father hailing from the Flashpoint Universe that Bruce should give up being Batman. Thomas Wayne told his son that he wants him to live a happy life and to be there for his own son Damian Wayne in the way that he could never have been there for Bruce. This seemingly starts Batman down the path of considering hanging up the cowl and retiring. Then in the previous Batman issue, #24, Bruce proposed to Selina Kyle aka Catwoman.
Now picking up with issue #25 Batman is narrating a story to Catwoman, a story in which he did something horrible and that is something that she must know about before she agrees to marry him. That story is The War of Jokes and Riddles, an event that takes place early in his career, sometime between Batman: Year One and Batman: The Long Halloween. This first issue is very much a set-up for things to come, it serves more as an introduction to where the characters are at that point in the Batman canon and what the motivations of the Joker and the Riddler will be for the upcoming story.
The issue opens at a comedy club with a stand-up comedian on stage, the Joker listens as the comedian tries to get him to laugh but he fails and is gunned down. Another comedian comes on stage to try his luck and the panel zooms out to reveal a pile of dead comedians beneath the stage. Meanwhile, the Riddler is a prisoner being interviewed by police officers in an attempt to solve crimes. The Joker continues a senseless spree of killing throughout the issue but he is frustrated that nothing he is doing seems funny to him. The Riddler manages to break out of prison and seeks out the Joker. He speaks while the Joker listens. The Riddler says that he cannot allow the Joker to solve the riddle of who Batman is and that the Joker can’t allow the Riddler to steal the punchline and kill the Batman. So the Riddler proposes that the two team up to take down Batman, only to be shot in the gut by the Joker in another failed attempt to laugh again. This is when Batman flies into the hideout and sees the Riddler bleeding out, he leaves him and goes to chase after the Joker only to lose him. Then Batman provides some foreshadowing and there is an amazing page of many Batman villains battling against each other, either taking the Joker’s side or the Riddler’s in an upcoming war for Gotham City.
Personally, I was actually a little underwhelmed by this first issue. However, it is obviously setting up for something epic so I have high hopes for the future. My main issues with this issue are it did not have Batman in it at all except for a page and the Joker isn’t that fun to read when he isn’t having a good time. It was just odd for me seeing a Joker that can’t laugh, but I am interested to see where that goes. Overall, I give Batman #25 a 7 out of 10. Let me know if you agree, disagree or are excited to see where this story goes and have a nice day.