Batman #26 is part two of the eight-part event, “The War of Jokes and Riddles” written by Tom King. The last issue of this story arc began with Batman telling Catwoman about a horrible event that happened during his early years as Batman, in which Joke and Riddler divided up Gotham’s villains and waged a war against each other. The issue showed the reader a Joker who could no longer laugh and a Riddler who sought to team up with the Joker in order to take down Batman together. However, this backfired on the Riddler as the issue ended with the Joker shooting him in the torso and leaving him for dead.
Issue 26 picks up directly after this incident with the Joker still attempting and failing to laugh and the Riddler undergoing emergency surgery to remove the bullet. This leaves a blot-like scar which the Riddler uses as the bottom dot for a new question mark shape he carves onto his chest. I took a bit of issue with this because it made me wonder where this scar is in the present day, but to my knowledge there actually has not been too many Riddler stories since the New 52, the most notable being “Zero Year” but that took place about a year prior to this story, so I suppose it can still fit canonically.
After the Riddler leaves his surgeon dead, he writes a message for all Gotham to see, warning the Joker that he is coming to kill him. In response to this, the Joker orders the mob boss, Carmine Falcone, to kill the Riddler in one hour. Carmine’s men fail due to the Riddler making an alliance with Poison Ivy in a beautiful splash page showcasing her power and the Riddler’s mania. So of course, Falcone’s men fail and the Joker is waiting in Falcone’s office with a grin of Falcone’s mother’s teeth on his desk. It is also revealed that at this time a young Penguin is working for Falcone. It is around this then that Batman enters the scene and is struggling to keep up with the chaos and carnage caused by both sides as the beginning of the alliances are formed.
Overall, I thought this issue moved a lot quicker than the prior issue as there was a significant amount more going on. The groundwork for the larger story is clearly setting in by the end of issue 26 with a lot of interesting details and plot threads forming. However, while this issue set a lot up, it still did not quite feel like enough was fleshed out and I fear that issue 27 will be yet another set up to lead into the real meat of the story. That is not to say that I did not enjoy this issue, I thought it was really well done with a lot of little nods to long-time fans thrown in. Overall, I give Batman #26 an 8 out of 10. Let me know if you agree, disagree or are excited to see where this story goes and have a nice day.