The Riddler: Year of the Villain #1 is published by DC Comics, written by Mark Russell, art by Scott Godlewski, colors by Marissa Louise, and letters by Travis Lanham. Edward Nigma is feeling lost. He’s questioning what he’s doing with his life. What’s the point of all the plots when you always lose? He’s feeling like he’s not going anywhere. Then he gets a visit from one Lex Luthor.
The Riddler: Year of the Villain #1 is a superb blend of the analytical and the ridiculous. It focuses on its titular character and how he has been seeing himself lately. To further emphasize The Riddler’s mood he is joined by fellow Bat-nemesis King Tut. While The Riddler questions where he is going Tut plows ahead full steam. Even going so far as to convince The Riddler to team-up for another go at the caped crusader. Th Riddler sees something of himself in Tut. And it doesn’t thrill him. That’s when Luthor arrives.
All the self-analysis in The Riddler: Year of the Villain #1 is wonderfully balanced by the gorgeous art that goes out of its way to highlight the ridiculousness of its characters. From The Riddler casually walking through Gotham in full outfit to Tut’s Sphinx shaped house the art is so self-aware, it’s amazing. Even the colors feel like a throw back to an era when comics were a bit more ridiculous. This contrast with The Riddler’s inner struggles keep things from becoming too serious while they also serve to emphasize just what The Riddler is wrestling with.
The great character writing in The Riddler: Year of the Villain #1 doesn’t stop with its title character, though. Writer Mark Russel does a superlative job with Lex Luthor as well. He brings the casual arrogance that Luthor at his best always exudes. Though this time he seems to be genuinely trying to lift The Riddler up, even as he puts him down. This condescending “tough love” approach is hard to write with the appropriate amount of subtlety. Stray too far into the tough, and Luthor is just being petty and mean. Likewise, too much kindness would come across to The Riddler as pity. And even The Riddler at his lowest wouldn’t accept that. Despite the delicate nature of the moment, Russel delivers it flawlessly.
Really, my only problem with The Riddler: Year of the Villain #1 comes not from within the book, but with its connection to its main character’s greater story. The need to prove to himself that The Riddler isn’t just a joke has come up before. This was shown to be his driving motivation for his part of the plot against Batman in the classic Hush storyline. His part in that legendary caper should have moved him past this sort of storyline for good. However, he certainly wouldn’t be the first villain to find themselves tread-milling in the character arc department.
When taken just as it is, The Riddler: Year of the Villain #1 is a near-flawless piece of character introspective. The Riddler feels real and genuine, despite how outlandish his setting is. The character depth and tonal balancing are pieces of art. Unfortunately, just as a character’s history can elevate them through long-running arcs, it can also make them stumble when the story feels retold.
The Riddler: Year of the Villain #1 is available now.
The Riddler: Year of the Villain #1
When taken just as it is, The Riddler: Year of the Villain #1 is a near-flawless piece of character introspective.