It’s finally time to match wits with the Riddler!

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Going into this issue, my excitement was mixed with worries.  It had many challenges that I knew Snyder was going to have to overcome and I just didn’t know if he could pull it off.  This particular finale has been a long time coming and the longer a buildup something has, the more payoff one is going to expect in return.  It doesn’t help the matter that Snyder has become somewhat known for crafting great stories with less than satisfying endings.  Another difficult balancing act was going to be with Riddler’s dialogue.  How to make him understandable and accessible to the average reader but still put his wordplay on a level above that same reader.  Finally, the fans have been demanding that The Riddler receive a story worthy of his standing and popularity.  Take all that into account, and this has become a herculean task of monumental difficulty.  Now lets see how he did, shall we.

I’ll be honest: when Riddler inexorably uttered the words, “Rrrrriddle me this Batman” , my inner geek had a huge smile.  Oh, who am I kidding?  It was on the outside as well!  Clocking in at 35 pages, you’d be surprised to find out that there is very little action portrayed therein; however, I wouldn’t have had it any other way!  At this point, it’s all about the battle of wits between Batman and The Riddler.  Greg Capullo deftly captures in Batman’s face and mannerisms the stress and strain that he is undergoing to meet Riddler’s challenges.  Meanwhile, Snyder puts just the right amount of haste in Batman’s lines as he does with inflecting Riddler with ample helpings of callousness and smuggery.  Millions of lives, literally, are at stake… and Riddler gets bored and starts playing with his cane!  It’s hard to imagine anybody being more petulant than that!  It’s also fun to watch Riddler do things just to make Batman lose his temper, or get distracted so his mind won’t fully be on the task at hand.  The riddles themselves were all manageable -once Batman explained how he came to his conclusions. I fear Gotham would have been doomed if I were the one having to answer them!  Does anyone out there think they would have fared any better?

Spoiler
  The Riddler had twelve puzzles for the Dark Knight to solve and I would have been more than happy to sit through all of them, but Batman ended up beating him before it came to that.  While part of me is dying to know what the other riddles were, it is obvious that there are none in reality, as coming up with twelve that would all fit within Riddler’s theme is a tall order to fill.  Plus, I would like to believe that if they were truly going to get harder as they went along, that the majority of us wouldn’t have understood them anyway.

Batman’s biceps are ridiculous. I mean that in a good way!  Greg Capullo just killed it on the art in this issue.  With the attention to detail paid to panels, I have to imagine he has been working on this from the very beginning of Zero Year in between every other issue he had to do.  I’m not going to list everything that was great, because that would be an article unto itself, so I’ll just pick out my favorite stuff.  The reflection of Riddler’s face on his own cane is not something you would normally see, but the fact that they choose to include it was a beautiful choice and one that I’ve looked at every time I’ve leafed through the issue thus far.  After the day is won, you see random Gotham citizens rejoicing:  in one panel, you see a man and a woman embracing in silhouette; this is not important to the story but it just added depth for me and was a true gesture of complete jubilation at their freedom.  Toward the end, there is a shot of Batman being held within a beam of light projected from overhead; if you have ever seen the shot of Bruce mourning over his parents bathed in the light from a street lamp then you’ll see the similarities between the two depictions.  Even without dialogue it would have been hard not to have been moved by the image itself.

Part of me would have been happy with nothing more than that, but I get to the end of the story and there are still nine pages left.  What I have done to be deserving of a treat such as this, I shall never know! But that didn’t stop me from enjoying them.

Could that ending have been anymore emotional?  I didn’t shed any tears but I felt some of that pre-cry breathing going on.  Whenever I hear somebody say they want to be Batman I always tell them that they don’t know what they are talking about (be Grayson! Batman advantages without all the drawbacks).  You might think he is the coolest superhero ever but there is no way I would walk a mile in his shoes.  This ending hits home in multiple ways, it just shows how sad his life really is.  He has resigned himself to the loss of so many things we probably take for granted everyday.  It’s not that him choosing the cape and cowl over a normal life is anything new, but the delivery was just so powerful. 

Spoiler
Julie shows up wanting to get reacquainted with Bruce.  Alfred all but begs him just to have a drink with her,  tells him he doesn’t know the happiness he is giving up.  Bruce responds that happiness is not for him.  Alfred is forced to dismiss the girl but not before envisioning the realistic future Bruce could have had with her. 

Spoiler

  • Loved the part where Batman is like, shut up and ask your question.  And Riddler responds so sarcastically with: Batman…I can’t very well shut up and ask a question at the same time.
  • Liked Nygma referring to war as two minds in the sky above the battlefield.  Made something so brutal seem poetic.
  • My only real complaint about this issue is why Batman had to start up the city using Nygma’s contraption.  I understand that Snyder wanted to throw in something symbolic with Batman being the heart of the city but it just seemed a little forced to me.  I understand also that Batman needed to do that to stop the planes from bombing but it’s not like he knew he had to do that right then or the city was doomed.  It is the one thing that I went hmmm to.
  • I liked how they put two owls in the story.  The one that frightened Gordon into dropping the flare gun and the other piece that was architecture on the building and most likely a direct reference to The Court of Owls.
  • I’m sure that Batman would have been able to answer Nygma’s riddles without cheating but he did end up using a “Gadget” in the end to win.  Lucius Fox deserves major props for that one.
  • Gordon, did you seriously not see that huge patch of blood on his shoulder?
  • The first bat-signal was paint on a mirror, reflecting the sun.  How cool is that?
  • Bruce talked about being a lightning rod.  Off the top of my head I can’t remember where this is from but it is from another Batman story and I always thought it was a great metaphor for Batman.  It makes me happy to see it being introduced to a new audience.
  • It is weird to think of Nygma being the first Super Criminal incarcerated at Arkham, but I got a laugh out of Gordon mentioning that holding him there will only be a one time thing.
  • Bruce’s Gotham speech after the “one month later” cut made me think about how this Gotham is this generations version of Batman and how it is always changing.  I felt like some of the stuff from his speech could be easily applied to the fans and the writers of the here and now.

Interesting Facts:

  • Julie Madison first appeared in Detective Comics #31 (1939) as Bruce’s fiancee.  A recurring joke that Finger liked to use with Julie was having her comment on how amazing Batman was and why couldn’t Bruce do something useful with his life like that (she didn’t know he was Batman).  Julie eventually got bored with Bruce and went to Hollywood to become an actress under the stage name Portia Storme.
  • The Giant Penny first appeared in World’s Finest #30 (1947).  When fans describe the Batcave you would be hard pressed to find one who wouldn’t mention The Giant Penny or the life sized Tyrannosaurus Rex. 
    Spoiler
    The thing that is great about the use of the penny in this story is that now it isn’t just a trophy from a case but will have a history in which it was actually used to thwart evil. 

Recommended if…

  • You agree that it is about time that The Riddler had a story worthy of his awesomeness.
  • You wanna see Greg Capullo doing his thing.
  • You’re in the mood to feel some genuine emotions.
  • You love Alfred. (Very sparsely used but was perfect when there)

Overall:

I laughed, I cried!  It was better than Bats!  But seriously, this story had some serious emotional weight along with well crafted and intelligent interplay between characters.  In my opinion it is Snyder’s best ending to date.  Sure, there are always nits to be picked but I’m just so happy with the successful parts of the story, that the few missteps are easily overlooked.

SCORE: 9/10

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