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.
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.