A Revealing Interruption in Batman 31

by Patrick Ehlers

This article contains SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk!

There’s that part in The Princess Bride where the narrator announces the King died in the night and Buttercup was married to Prince Humperdink the next day. It’s a jarring bit of information, totally incongruous with the story we’ve come to expect, but the more impressive feat of storytelling is Fred Savage’s interruption a few seconds later. Savage’s character cuts in on Humperdink’s “My father’s final words were…” with an impetuous “hold it, hold it!” The effect his immediate: the audience is reminded why we’re watching this story in the first place. “Trust me,” the film implies “even if you’re momentarily upset, you’re going to have fun in the end.” Tom King and Mikel Janín’s Batman 31 pulls off a similar interruption, emphasizing the riddle (or is it the joke?) at the heart of this story arc: why is Bruce telling Selina about the War of Jokes and Riddles?

The interruption in question is pretty insignificant, but totally on-brand for this story.

It’s a joke. A corny double-entendre. This is tonally perfect, and just crappy enough of a goof to run along side Joker’s knock-knock jokes. But this little cutaway gag does more that deliver a quarter-chuckle, it establishes Bruce as the speaker in his narration boxes, and this audience as Selina Kyle. For the most part, the narration stays quiet during the raid on Joker’s office, letting the fists and kites do all the joke-telling. It’s all stuff I love, including an amazing scene between Kite Man (hell yeah) and Killer Croc that doubles down on KM’s down-on-his-luck-supervillain persona.

Naturally, this all leads to a showdown between the three main players: Batman, Joker and Riddler. That’s when the narration kicks back in, revealing that it’s important for the speaker to tell the audience about what happened up there. The reader’s mind races back to those three panels above, and the narrator’s confession becomes something much more intimate. Speaker and audience become an engaged couple,  both in their underwear, physically and emotionally vulnerable. Whatever Batman’s about to confess to, we’re primed for something dramatic.

Of course, given the bleak-but-campy tone of King’s work, this could all be a set-up for a killer joke. Guess we’ll just have to wait for the punchline to find out!

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