King and company create a nearly perfect two-parter that elevates Kite Man from joke to tragedy.
The War of Jokes and Riddles takes another interlude as we once again dive into the life and mind of Kite Man. Charles Brown has ingrained himself in the Joker’s army, interacting with various villains as he attempts to gather information for Batman. But there is something more personal and deep at the core of what Kite Man is doing, and perhaps there is redemption for the once one-joke villain.
“The War of Jokes and Riddles Interlude-The Ballad of Kite Man Part 2”
Written by: Tom King
Art by: Clay Mann
Inks by: Seth Mann
Colors by: Jordie Bellaire
Lettered by: Clayton Cowles
Cover by: Mikel Janin
Published by: DC Comics
When I reviewed the first part of the Kite Man interlude (Batman #27), I called it “stuff of classic villain making; full of ill choices, some what good intentions, and the kind of gut-punch ending all good comic book stories about bad guys becoming bad guys need.” Having read the second part, this now seems even truer. Tom King once again gets us into the mind Kite Man through his son. The choice to have such an emotionally charged conversation off panel/page serve as a narration, while we “watch” Kite Man interact and question various villains serves three great purposes. We get a great tour of some of Batman‘s greatest B-listers, further making Kite Man into a true anti-hero, and it expands on the tragedy of the character, especially with what we already know happened to his son. If there is any justice in the world, ‘I am a joke. And so I guess I am.’ will become a classic line.
Splitting the Kite Man story into two parts, and not consecutive ones either, was a bold risk that pays off. The pacing on this arc has been strange, bordering on experimental, and incorporating a story within a story only makes it that much more unique. The Kite Man stuff still works as its own tale, but sandwiching it like this amps up the tension in both.
This issue also showcases how great King handles Batman villains. Tweedledee and Tweedledum are chilling, Two-Face is insane, Mr. Freeze’s ego gets the best of him, and Cluemaster is kind of a selfish dick. All these are done in great one or two-panel sequences and they are a ton of fun.
And of course, King continues to write both Joker and Riddler as very dangerous. We see the Joker losing control and we see Riddler basking IN control. It’s a great use of juxtaposition to show readers how different these two are and why an escalating war between them on this level is natural.
Although Mikel Janin does the cover for this issue, the interior is handled by Clay Mann, Seth Mann, and Jordie Bellaire. Mann was the penciler on the first part of the Kite-Man arc, and his ability to capture emotion on faces is crucial to all of this working. He also has a way of subtlety breaking panel borders that give page layouts an extra bit of detail that raises how visually pleasing this book is.
The inks and the colors also add a ton of weight and texture to the images. There is a lot shading, deep greens, and blues, that all serve to create a perfect mood for such a somber story.
I have liked every chapter in ‘The War Of Jokes and Riddles’, but the Kite Man stuff has really been my favorite. I’m a sucker for heel turns and B-listers, so this is right up my alley. Plus it really does stretch the tension in the main story, as you get even more invested in Kite Man, you get more invested in the war. You’re following the battle through the foot soldier, and you really do feel like you are caught in the middle.