Riddled With Vengeance — Batman #23.2 / The Riddler #1 Review

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Forgiving and forgetting. That’s not what supervillains do.

In Batman #23.2 — renamed Riddler #1 because of DC’s huge Villains Month special — the Riddler takes revenge to an extreme, executing a plan years in the making.

Locked up in Arkham, the Riddler wasn’t afforded much in amenities. Given his proclivity for mind games, the Riddler was effectively banned from having card games in his cell.

A run-in with a guard prompts the Riddler to create an intricate series of riddles to go along with a venture through Wayne Enterprises Tower in a bid for revenge and excitement. Though rumors say the Batman’s “dead and gone,” the Riddler would love to have one more go with his favorite nemesis.

For the most part, Batman #23.2 does what it’s meant to do quite well. It’s a self-contained issue featuring one of Batman’s numerous villains, and it skips on the origin story going right to the thick of it. Like most of Batman’s villains, the Riddler doesn’t have any superpowers, but he remains a formidable force because of his sociopathic tendencies. The element of surprise combined with an psychotic streak gives the unassuming Edward Nygma the ability to cause mass damage on Gotham City.

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Nygma passes through various security points with ease until he’s spotted by Wayne Towers’ head security guard who gives chase. When Nygma’s caught, it’s by design, and the story ends with the Riddler, literally on top of Wayne Tower, waiting for his crimes to call the Batman’s attention.

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Ray Fawkes’ scripting is excellent, and the riddles don’t sound lowbrow or desperate. The deliberate nature of the Riddler — his method of creating complex word games to go along with his criminal activities — requires something more than just gimmickry, and Fawkes’ balance of intelligence and action this issue gives Batman #23.2 a story that plays with words and visuals.

The visuals by Jeremy Haun are solid by character design, but when it comes to telling the story panel by panel, the sequences are a little shaky and reserved. When the Riddler is confronted by an overzealous office worker, there’s very little drama in the action, and what could have been an exciting bit of sparring turns into an awkward exchange as the Riddler turns his back on the downed worker, then proceeds to electrocute her.

Haun’s page when the Riddler takes down his quarry with a wrist-launched explosive is the issue’s biggest surprise, and it’s the best page of the issue. The sudden explosion of gore and brutality is unexpected, and for those who think comics are for kids — they’ll think twice after seeing what the Riddler is capable of.

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John Rausch’s palette works great, and his choice of greens and violet hues for the Riddler makes him stand out. Rausch’s colors are pretty flat, but the contrast and color schemes give the panels a lot of pop.

While some view Villains Month as a gimmick to increase sales across the board for DC’s comics, Batman #23.2/Riddler #1 feels thought out and part of the universe. It doesn’t leave the reader with the impression that something great or immense is coming over the horizon, but as a one-shot story, it’s above average. There’s a bit of character development and a steady pace with some weight. Will readers find themselves lost if they decide to pass? Most likely — no. Still, for those who want to see the Riddler in action, it’s something, and that’s better than nothing.

Batman #23.2 / Riddler #1 (2011)
DC
Words: Ray Fawkes
Art: Jeremy Haun
Colors: John Rausch
Letters: Taylor Esposito

Previous Issue: Batman #23.1 Review
Next Issue: Batman #23.3 Review

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