by Spencer Irwin
This article contains SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk!
It takes quite a bit of hubris to think you can singlehandedly end crime, even in just one city. I’ve never been a fan of the interpretations that paint Batman as insane or as the genesis of his own enemies, but I do think there’s some merit to examining the negative effects his crusade on crime may create. That’s exactly what Tom King and Mikel Janin seem ready to do in “The War of Jokes and Riddles,” a storyline pitting the Joker and the Riddler against each other in a city-wide gang war that, of course, Batman blames himself for.
In fact, Batman’s guilt is built into the very foundation of Batman 25, wherein King and Janin frame their flashback story as a confession of sorts from Bruce to Selina Kyle. Bruce seems to feel guilty for something he does to end the war, but it’s easy to imagine that he feels just as bad about his role, unwitting as it is, in starting it in the first place.
Essentially, Batman’s so good at his job that he’s robbed Joker and the Riddler of the one thing they love most: humor and a challenge, respectively. Both these compulsive men feel the need to kill Batman themselves to reclaim what they’ve lost, and that drives them to war because, of course, they can’t let the other kill Batman, right?
Of course, Batman’s “crime” isn’t that he’s foiled these criminals’ plans; it’s that he was unable to anticipate how his actions, as necessary as they may have been to save lives and save Gotham City, would fuel his enemies’ madness. It’s that Batman thought he had “pushed [Gotham] into the light,” when all he had done was survive the first salvo.
This “nap of satisfaction” — which you could easily rename the “nap of hubris” — is one Batman will likely regret for the rest of his days, and is almost definitely the source of much of his more paranoid and obsessive behavior. So, the fact that Bruce is now confessing his guilt to Selina is a good sign, right? A sign that he’s trying to change, trying to live up to the commitment he’s made to Selina? That would be wonderful, but alas, Batman doesn’t change that easily. Let’s see the rest of the guilt King and Janin have planned to dump on Batman by this arc’s conclusion before we jump to any conclusions.
The conversation doesn’t stop there. What do you wanna talk about from this issue?