Behind the theatrics and superheroic drama, Batman stories are driven by a rhetorical question: is the Dark Knight a problem or a solution?
In the end, what separates the Bat from rest of Gotham’s mask-wearing men?
“The War of Jokes and Riddles” has come to a close in Batman #32 by Tom King and Mikel Janin, and it has brought a few answers.
“The War of Jokes and Riddles” has told through flashbacks as Bruce recounts events to Selina with the events occurring around the days of Bruce’s time as Batman, before the foundational stories like Batman: Year One, which means that the end of the war has not been the focus. Bruce would not be here, and Gotham City would not be here to tell stories if the fighting had not stopped and the world had not moved on. The point of telling this story is to admit one thing about Bruce’s past that he has kept hidden, something shameful.
Something he wants Selina to know before she gives him an answer to his marriage proposal.
After the reveal from the Riddler that he had orchestrated the war to craft a punchline for the Joker, Batman had snapped. And by “snapped,” he was ready to kill the Riddler.
Batman was “in control,” and “knew what he was doing,” and it “wasn’t an accident.” He was ready to break his single rule of his: Batman does not kill.
He had reasons for breaking his code. Remember Kite Man and how he lost his son as a casualty in the war? The story that had intercut the major plot as “The Ballad of Kite Man” had explained that the son had been murdered by Riddler. This will prove useful to Batman, who convinced Charles to betray the Joker and help Batman stage a showdown.
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At that moment after the epiphany, Batman decides a logical course of action, and that is to kill Riddler. That is not what happens, and the last laugh ends up going to the Joker.
The effect of the moment is the same for Bruce: the immediate reaction that the difference between Batman and his villains is just “a hand on a knife.” The thing that keeps Batman from sliding past the point of no return id not innate to him, it is not something internal, it is an external force of something stopping him from going too far.
And this is what Selina needed to know. Batman is not the solution or a problem. He is just a cog in the machine that keeps Gotham going.
So now that Selina has all facts at her disposal, it is time for a second revelation “The War of Jokes and Riddles” has to offer.
Selina says “Yes.”
Now, this is not the first for the duo, but it is a first for continuity in the post-Crisis On Infinite Earths, post-Rebirth world, so there is no shortage of questions. Modern Batman is no stranger to relationships, but marriage has not come into his purview. .
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This falls into step with writer Tom King’s work on this character over the past 2 years, which has gotten more focused on nitty-gritty introspection. The marriage has a potential to blur lines between Bruce Wayne and Batman.
The next arc of Rebirth Batman is called “A Dream of Me” and is set to — for better or worse — explore the fallout of the proposal.