Year of the Villain has offered up some delectable one-shot stories focused on supercharged villains thanks to Lex Luthor. Mark Russell delivered one of the best yet with Sinestro and this week he’s tackling Riddler. How does one supercharge a villain who is more about parlor tricks and silly games than being a bonafide threat? Answer: You don’t!
So what’s it about?
The official summary reads:
Lex Luthor has presented dark gifts to super-villains across the DC Universe, setting off what can only be called the Year of the Villain. Unfortunately, resources are limited, so not everyone got something. The Riddler is one such person, and he is most displeased about it. Was this merely an oversight or a deliberate slight? The Riddler is determined to find out which-and so should you!
Why does this matter?
If you’re a fan of realistic depictions of lovable losers you’ll love this. This issue focuses mostly on Riddler with some Tut thrown in too as they attempt to battle Batman and win even though they always lose.
Fine, you have my attention. What’s good about it?
Riddler goes through a bit of a dilemma this issue thanks in part because Lex hasn’t given him a power-up like the other supervillains. It’s a slap in the face in his opinion and Mark Russell writes a solid version of Riddler here. He’s not insane like we’ve seen him, but level headed. He’s beaten down by Batman, but also this insult to his ego. That’s a big part of the narrative as a key scene involves Lex informing Riddler of how ego can ruin your best-laid plans. By the end of the issue, you’ll believe Riddler’s new direction was earned thanks to scenes with Lex, but also some soul searching Riddler goes through.
Customary of Russell narratives there are stories within stories here, which add to the thought-provoking journey Riddler is going on. In the main story within a story, we learn about a man in Kansas who builds a box. It’s a metaphor of sorts for Riddler to chew on. This and other moments with Lex help reveal how Riddler does in fact get a supercharge from Lex, but it might be the best of all since it may help him going forward forever.
The art by Scott Godlewski is perfect for this story as it’s more two-shot talking scenes than anything else. He has an incredible ability to draw facial expressions and give these characters realism even if they’re sitting still in a chair. Color artist Marissa Louise uses a lot of lighter colors like aqua to give the book a lighter feel. Many backgrounds are solid splashes of color and they do well to highlight the characters but also keep the focus on them. Batman looks fabulous in this issue too and it makes me want a Godlewski Batman series stat. There’s a detail with the nose of the cowl running to a point that adds a bit of weirdness to Batman I love.
It can’t be perfect, can it?
I was a little thrown off by the plotting of the issue. We cut from a scene with Riddler, to a scene with Lex, back to Riddler the next day, and then back to even more things Lex said to Riddler. I understand Russell is trying to show Riddler thinking to himself about things Lex said, but it’s surprising to see unseen moments in a scene we just saw. These cutaways needed a little something extra to convey how Riddler is being pushed to contemplate his path and where he is now. It works as is, but it’s a tad clunky.
Is it good?
Witness Riddler come to new realizations and possibly change forever. This is a clever take on Lex bestowing powers on villains and I can’t wait to see if Riddler becomes a different sort of character going forward.