Writer: Mark Russell
Artwork: Scott Godlewski
Colours: Marissa Louise
Lettering: Travis Lanham
Release Date: 11th September 2019
Full disclosure, I haven’t really been following DC’s Year of the Villain to this point. Sure, I know the broad premise (Lex Luthor bestowing the gift of amplified powers on the world’s bad guys), and appreciate the fact that it hasn’t fallen into one of these “you must read every single issue to know what the heck is going on” type events. However, aside from the events which have taken place with Black Manta in Aquaman, I haven’t really picked up much else. Until now, that is.
The Riddler is low-key one of my all-time favourite villains, and in the right hands ol’ Edward Nygma can be something truly special. So the prospect of seeing him involved in Lex’s plans and potentially getting a boost to his skills filled me with a giddy, almost childlike level of excitement. However, as it turns out, that’s not what this is at all. Instead, Mark Russell and Scott Godlewski deliver a comical and faintly introspective look at a man who seems to have been overlooked by everyone, Luthor Included, and viewed as something of a D-list player.
The inclusion of King Tut is an inspired choice, and the pair’s apparent friendship and shared frustration at their perceived ineptitude gives the book a delightful anchor. Granted, Tut probably has more reason that Ed to think that way, but I really enjoyed their conversations and the Riddler’s faint attempts to distance himself from his friend’s latest crazy, unnecessarily theatrical plan to vanquish Batman once and for all.
This feels a lot more involved in the actual ‘Year of the Villain’ than some of the other one-shots, mainly due to Lex making an appearance and delivering some hard home truths to Nygma. The parallels between both men are well drawn, and the way Luthor carries himself here makes me want to start reading more of the other event books where he features – surely a successful outcome for any tie-in story.
I’ve been a fan of Scott Godlewski since Vertigo’s The Dark & Bloody, and he delivers a strong visual performance here. There’s a slight sterility to the artwork than helps to root the story in the mundane rather than the spectacular for the most part, although he does get to fully embrace the unbridled silliness of King Tut’s plan in the latter stages of the book. The characters are expressive and the whole thing flows smoothly, with some solid, upbeat colour work from the always impressive Marissa Louise rounding out the visual package. Godlweski also displays a pleasing knack for visual comedy that I hadn’t seen before, which really helps to nail some of the more comedic beats of the story.
Like most of these one-shots, and indeed the ‘Year of the Villain’ as a whole, this really isn’t required reading unless you’re a fan of the character, although it does open up some interesting possibilities for the Riddler moving forwards. I hope there’s some sort of payoff down the line, and while we don’t get to see him at his Riddler-y best, this is an enjoyable, slightly meta look at a character who has been dismissed by a lot of people for far too long. Nothing ground-breaking, but still well worth a look.