Batman – One Bad Day: The Riddler #1 – Tom King, Writer; Mitch Gerads, Artist
Ray – 9/10
Ray: This new series of stand-alone graphic novel one-shots are trying to evoke the tone of the infamous The Killing Joke, which took Joker to his darkest point—seeing him paralyze Barbara Gordon, torture Jim Gordon, and push Batman to the brink of insanity. It’s a highly influential story, but also a wildly controversial one—so what does that sensibility look like filtered through other creators? If Tom King and Mitch Gerads’ first outing is any indication, much better. This story combines the element of finally revealing Riddler’s origin like the original story did for Joker with watching the gimmick crook truly unleashed for the first time—starting with him committing a seemingly unexplained murder of a random man.
As Batman and Gordon desperately try to unravel the murder and Riddler becomes more and more inscrutable when questioned, we flash back to his origin story, set at a tony Gotham academy. Edward Tierney’s mother is a prostitute, and his father is the powerful headmaster who never lets him forget that he’s a “son of a whore”—brutally punishing him for even the slightest imperfection in his grades. Those imperfections usually come from one place—a kindly literature teacher who likes to end his tests with a riddle that Edward can never quite get. It’s ironic that the one person who seems to appreciate Edward’s talent is the person standing in his way of “greatness”—and it sets them on a tragic collision course.
Tom King’s Gotham work isn’t always as strong as the rest of his library. His sensibility, when applied to the overly dark world of Gotham, can sometimes feel oppressive. A few scenes here feel like they push things too far, particularly Riddler’s attack on a guard and Batman’s interrogation tactics. But it all builds to a brutal face-off between the two rivals, light on violence but high on tension, as Riddler lays out a new status quo. Does it work in every way? I think it’s a lot smoother if you assume that this is just an alternative universe and doesn’t reflect the actual Riddler we know, because this take is terrifying. It ends in an oddly ambiguous way, but it delivers in showing us that any villain can be an incredible threat when pushed too far. Definitely a strong start for the line.
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GeekDad received this comic for review purposes.