The Riddler: Year of the Villain #1 – Mark Russell, Writer; Scott Godlewski, Artist; Marissa Louise, Colorist
Ray – 8/10
Corrina: Unexpectedly Cool
Ray: The Riddler: Year of the Villain #1 is the second Year of the Villain one-shot written by Mark Russell, after the bizarre Sinestro one-shot that saw him toppling a race of ancient conquerors with an appeal to microscopic workers. This issue stays much closer to home, with a focus on the biggest-name DC villain who hasn’t gotten an offer from Lex Luthor – Riddler. Right out of the gate, I can say that this is my favorite take on Riddler in a while – Russell perfectly keeps him in character as the scrappy, smarter-than-thou gimmick crook locked in a game of cat and mouse with Batman. No more psycho-killer from the last two major runs. But his routine is getting stale and he’s tired of losing to batman every time. That leaves him to drown his sorrows in regular hang-outs with his best villain friend – a revamped version of King Tut, who likes to trap Batman in Egyptian catacombs. These two are basically Puzzle Bros, and I’d read a whole series of them teaming up to bedevil heroes. But you know their friendship isn’t going to end well.
Lex Luthor does eventually show up – not to give Riddler an offer, but to tell him everything that’s wrong with him as a villain. Russell’s written Luthor twice now in this event, and I’m enjoying this take on him as a sort of supervillain tough love coach. Russell gives Riddler some interesting new layers and I’d be interested in seeing this controversy continue, but I’m not sure about King Tut and how he factors into this story. Reinventing him not as a white Egyptology professor with a head injury but a black man with a fixation on the ancient Gods certainly makes him a more sustainable villain, and his death traps provide the issue’s best visuals. However, he reminds me a lot of Philo Math in that he’s a pseudo-villain who has their own interesting things going only to ultimately be a victim in someone else’s story – in this case, being hung out to dry by Riddler’s awakening. I like a lot of the concepts in this series, but I think I would have liked it more as a stand-alone story that didn’t have to serve the greater purposes of an event.
Corrina: I’ve gotten so used to the Year of the Villain stories as being about villains gaining extra power and nearly killing our heroes that I went into The Riddler: Year of the Villain #1 expecting the same.
That is not this story. Instead, it’s more about Edward Nigma and why he does what he does and how dissatisfied he is with what he does. His meeting with Tut, in an Egyptian-themed restaurant, has the feel of something out of a Flash Rogues Gallery kvetch session. It’s an amusing scene but it’s also a sad scene of two people stuck on the road to nowhere. (Now if I could just forget about the homicidal Riddler that’s been in the latest Batman stories, I could even root for him. Perhaps I’ll view this comic as in the Batman ’66 world, as it has that feel.)
In the end, Edward moves on from the Riddler. I almost want to see the second part of this story but, yes, it’s in continuity, and in that, Edward is a cheerful mass murderer. So there’s that.
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Disclaimer: GeekDad received this comic for review purposes.