Zero Year was 12 months where Gotham was left without power and laws. 12 months in which the Riddler ruled the streets. But Batman fought back and took the streets back from the Riddler. What came next is what is called the War of Jokes and Riddles. It is of this time that Bruce speaks, this time that he shares, when the line between the hero and villain became blurred.
Bruce Wayne: “…People think they understand me. Alfred, Gordon, the boys. All of Gotham, in its way. Even you. A man in pain, trying to save who he can. They think…but…they don’t understand… anything. They don’t know a damn thing about me. Because they don’t know, Cat. They have know idea. You have know idea. But you have to. Before. Before any of this. You have to know. What I did…What I had to do. During the War of Jokes and Riddles…”
The Riddler leaves prison, bodies in his wake and heads toward Gotham with a proposition for the Joker. That they team up and do together what they could not do on their own. Kill the Batman. But the Joker is not feeling himself these days and answers the Riddler with a gunshot to the stomach. The Joker is not fixated on the Batman right now but he does not want anyone else to kill him either. So he instead begins the War. Joker against the Riddler. What is wrong with the Joker? He cannot laugh. The Joker is missing the joke.
Tom King is doing more than just telling great Batman stories. He is carefully dissecting the Dark Knight in the process. Not by some long involved and boring psychosis. But in bits and pieces as he carefully peels back layers of the cowl itself. This is a far more human Batman than we have ever seen. Even the villains seem to be more human and less the comic book characters they are. The inability of the Joker to get the joke and laugh. His violence that follows and he is in search of the only thing that makes him tick. The joke. The Riddler, who wages a war because the one thing he could not solve, is why the Joker could not laugh. And finally the Batman, a lone man in the midst of a war that is tearing his city apart, must choose one side over the other in hopes of finally ending the war. But more so, how far would he go to end the war once and for all.
Tom King is writing timely and entertaining Batman books. No this is not Scott Snyder, it is its own voice and it demands to be heard.
Collects BATMAN #25-32.