It has very little to do with Zero Year and Scott Snyder didn’t write it, but Batman #23.2 “The Riddler #1” is one of the best Villains Month books you can buy.

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Ray Fawkes (who is working from a story he crafted with Scott Snyder– also, Fawkes’ name is misspelled in the book’s closing credits…or there’s a Ray “Fakwes” that I’m unfamiliar with) writes The Riddler damn near perfectly here. He holds grudges, is dashing, arrogant, and he’s always the smartest man in the room. But most importantly, he actually has riddles to deliver and they’re not only fun to solve on your own, but they play a vital role in the comic’s plot.

“Are you watching closely?”

The cool thing about Riddler’s story is that everything is laid out on the first page. Study it. Take note of the brief 3-panel flashback to 4 years ago when Edward Nygma is punished for contraband by an Arkham guard. Read each riddle carefully and try and solve it yourself before turning the page– that’s half the fun, really. And, when you think you’re ready, press on and see what Riddler’s plan is for this one-shot. It’s nothing if not a wildly fun heist comic.

Following the intricate opening page we flash forward to the present day to the post-Forever Evil world where all the villains have been set free (You should really read Forever Evil #1 before picking up any Villains Month book). However, a point where this comic misses the mark is where it ties in to the larger Forever Evil saga and the chaos of Gotham. In Gail Simone’s Ventriloquist #1 the citizens are literally starving in the streets, in Derek Fridolfs’ Poison Ivy #1 Gothamites are burning the place down while giant plants erupt from the ground, Two-Face #1 showed us another vision of Gotham in which the city is overrun by gang violence and Two-Face himself has taken up acting as vigilante, but here the only riots we see are quite well organized and the authorities are still well in place. The few Gothamites on hand in this comic aren’t looting or vandalizing or forming gangs, they’re just standing behind a barricade in front of Wayne Enterprises protesting an SEC filing/misconduct scandal. In fact, we learn that the only reason the mob gathered on the Wayne Enterprise steps in the first place is because our crafty villain wanted them to. So why isn’t Gotham in shambles? This is a obvious flaw, sure, but only if you compare it with all of the other Villains Month books so I think it can be overlooked pretty easily. But, honestly, how long exactly after the Arkham break-out did the city fall? What’s the timeline? We’ll probably have to wait until Forever Evil: Arkham War to know for sure. For now, let’s just sit back and enjoy watching Riddler’s plan unfold.

Seeing the Riddler confidently stroll into one of the most highly guarded buildings in the world is highly entertaining

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Although, what with the Riddler being referred to as a celebrity criminal in this issue it’s odd that none of the security guards recognized him as he strutted through the security checkpoints. It’s not like he even bothered wearing a disguise.
and if you haven’t quite figured out the riddles just yet it’s a great deal of fun seeing how Fawkes integrated those details into the villain’s master plan. Truthfully, I think it’s one of the best Riddler stories I’ve read and one that definitely has a high re-read value.
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I was even okay with Riddler’s occasional bursts of violence just as long as that aspect doesn’t get overplayed in future depictions. I really don’t ever want to see a Riddler who is constantly slaughtering people or has a grand master plan that involves countless deaths.

Jeremy Haun (the newly announced artist of Batwoman) and colorist John Rausch illustrate this issue and for the most part it looks good. There’s a great sense of movement, especially when Riddler tosses his cane over the metal detector and catches it on the other side

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Although I’m still not sure what the “foosh” was from Riddler’s watch when he fought with the security guard
and Haun displays a great sense of visual storytelling– you could just look at the panels and get a sense of what’s happening in the tale without reading a word. Riddler himself looks good, if not a little more handsome than usual too, but some of the imagery in this book does come off looking a bit flat and the shading quite dull. The art serves the story well, but none of the visuals stand out as being very memorable. Nothing pops. It’s the plot that you’ll remember most about this comic.

Recommended If…

  • You enjoy a good heist
  • You love Edward Nygma and how he’s been portrayed in Zero Year
  • You would want to pause after the 1st page and try and solve a few riddles yourself

Overall

Riddler #1 is a great one-shot with a satisfying ending that defines the character.

SCORE: 9/10

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