As DC’s Villains Month rumbles into its second week, and Marvel events Infinity and Battle of the Atom creep their way forwards, there’s undoubtedly a lot of exciting titles hitting the shelves lately. However, while perusing my (again, fairly sizeable… damn you, DC!) pull list, there was once again one title that stood head and shoulders above the rest.
So, without any further ado, I give you… my comic of the week.
Batman #23.2 – The Riddler (DC Comics)
Writer(s): Scott Snyder, Ray Fawkes
Artist: Jeremy Haun
With lot of DC’s Villains Month titles struggling to find relevant and interesting ways to shine the spotlight on their titular stars, my expectations have already become fairly low about just what I’m going to find contained within the (undeniably awesome) 3D covers.
Well, Scott Snyder, Ray Fawkes and newly-announced Batwoman artist Jeremy Haun have pretty much shattered that somewhat negative mindset in one fell swoop with an absolutely stunning take on the Riddler. Beautifully intelligent in both its pacing and structure, the premise behind this title is admittedly a fairly simple one; Edward Nygma, seemingly wanting to test himself, decides to break into Wayne Enterprises. Sounds simple enough, right? And in a sense, it is. But rather than the idea itself, it’s the execution that really shines here.
The story is set up beautifully with the Riddler running through a series of riddles in his head, and part of the fun of this title is for the reader to attempt to solve them beforehand to somehow predict what’s coming. And while some of the riddles are fairly straightforward, the application of the answers to Nygma’s plot are more than a little shocking in places.
The one thing that Fawkes (and little-known co-writer Scott Snyder) manages to nail absolutely perfectly is Nygma’s personality. This is a character defined by structure and meticulous detail, a facet that is readily apparent as we see him systematically staying one step ahead of the Wayne Enterprises security system and its guards. Its fair to say that everyone loves a good heist, and it’s difficult not to find yourself almost rooting for the Riddler as he strolls his way through the hi-tech facility with an almost blasé sense of inevitability.
However, it is during the few moments when this calm demeanour slips where the character truly shines. And, in a few extremely powerful panels, we are shown that while it’s undeniably cool to see a ‘plan coming together’, we cannot forget that the man orchestrating the plan is an extremely dangerous, extremely violent, borderline psychotic individual.
Artist Haun plays well with the themes of the book, and his tailored, meticulous approach mirrors the restraint of the Riddler perfectly as he brings the character to life with every half-smile and subtle body motion. The panel layouts are mostly straightforward and direct, which again mirrors the measured nature of the Riddler’s plot.
It’s always a pleasure to go into a comic with fairly low expectations and then find yourself completely blown away, and I can safely say that while a lot of the Villains Month titles are providing dull, uninspired and (in the case of the Joker) utterly pointless tales, there are still a few out there that are bringing some absolutely inspired takes on well-established characters.
Overall, this book is a brilliant piece of work which perfectly encapsulates the appeal, motivations and inherent flaws of one of the most identifiable DC villains, and does it in a way that – while not actually adding much in the way of new twists or character wrinkles – still feels like an incredibly fresh, exciting story, and the final page – which sums the character up in one perfectly poetic moment – is a thing of sheer storytelling beauty.
Pretty much essential reading in my opinion, and undoubtedly the highlight of Villain’s Month so far.
And that’s all for this week. Let me know what you guys liked most this week, and I’ll see you all again here next week. Same Ceej time, same Ceej channel!
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