Batman 23.2 – The Riddler #1 review

Most of DC’s Villains Month specials aren’t the work of the regular creative teams, they’re an opportunity for them to skip a month, thereby getting ahead of the production schedule. And while this doesn’t automatically mean we’re getting sub-par work from the subbing writers and artists, it does mean they tend to be divorced from what’s going on in the regular series.

This issue, though, is an exception, featuring a script co-written by ongoing scribe Scott Snyder that spins out of his current Zero Year storyline. In there, we’re seeing the beginnings of Batman’s feud with the Riddler, as a young Edward Nygma encounters Bruce Wayne for the first time.

The story, Solitaire, opens four years ago, a couple of years post-Zero Year, with Nygma in Arkham Asylum, abused by an unseen warder. A speedy shift to the present day sees Nygma walking into Wayne Tower, bypassing its heightened security via his hi-tech cheats and lo-tech diversions. And he’s enigmatic all the way, letting his rhyming riddles shape the journey.

As for what he wants, well, I won’t spoil that one. Suffice to say Snyder and scripting partner Ray Fawkes up the Riddler’s threat level without resorting to a relentless parade of gore, emphasising his intelligence and love of the game. We don’t hear anything about Riddler’s background, but we do get a good sense of the man he is now – master planner, superiority complex, bears a grudge, desires a challenge, uses meditation exercises to calm his mind. All together, it makes me want to see more of this villain.

As does the artwork of Jeremy Haun, which gives Riddler – a man in a green suit with matching bowler – a surprising amount of charisma (click on image to enlarge). Haun’s people have a pleasing naturalism, they’re not perfect specimens grabbed from some model sheet, in his world passers-by have male pattern baldness, Roman noses, loon pants. Hair has texture. Clothes aren’t simply coloured-in shapes, they hang as if actually draped on a human body. The storytelling is subtle, matching the measured script, which gives the occasional ‘big’ moment all the more impact.

Colourist John Rauch uses a palette toned to Riddler’s signature green and magenta, and it makes a great topper to the pleasing illustrations. Taylor Esposito’s lettering is fine throughout, with the all-important riddles laid out with the requisite clarity. There are lettering errors on the final page credits, but it could as well be someone in Production as Esposito – whatever the case, I feel for Ray Fawkes, becoming ‘Fakwes’ for the second time in two months. And Rauch gains an extra letter, becoming ‘Rausch’. Editors Katie Kubert and Mike Marts really should be catching this sort of thing.

Guillem March’s cover illustration is a cracker, and 3D-ed up, works a treat. I dunno why the Riddler has his traditional black hair rather than the current brown, mind – another mistake, or DC readying for a change-up?

Production boobs aside, this is one of the better Villains Month entries I’ve read, being a well-crafted, entertaining, enlightening, self-contained tale that reflects the host title while nodding to the Forever Evil event. It’s definitely worth checking out.

3 thoughts on “Batman 23.2 – The Riddler #1 review

  1. This was a great issue and from the people I discussed it with, is probably the best Riddler story in ages (I haven't read many to determine if that is the case).

    But yeah, coming off of this comic, I wouldn't mind seeing a mini-series focusing on the character doing his thing. Compare and contrast with Harley Quinn's one shot. She's getting her own series, but the one shot ends in a way that really doesn't make me want to see it (I won't spoil what happens, but it really was awful and should have had editoral interference). Sure, I'll still read her upcoming series, it's by Palomitti and Conner who stated the series will be akind to Power Girl with a darker sense of humor, but the one-shot was bad.

    Then you have this issue with the Riddler and see why he is awesome and interesting as villain. If he had an upcoming series, I would be all over it from just this issue.

    But yeah, this issue was awesome and fantastic villain's month issue. Hopefully, there are a couple of more like coming up soon.


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