Stop me if you’ve heard this one before. A powerful villain (an evolved Lex Luthor in this case) has been giving “gifts” to various villains in order to give them an edge over the heroes they have battled many times while always getting defeated. Overall, it is an interesting concept that should be explored. Villains need to adapt rather than continue losing time and time again. “Apex Lex” is using his new resources to help villains get the ability to defeat the heroes. Unfortunately, some of the stories recently have started feeling a little repetitive while also interrupting the flow of the individual series.
Riddler: Year of the Villain thankfully breaks the mold and delivers an intriguing look at the Batman villain while also giving hints of a lasting significance to the issue.
Part of the success of this story could be the fact that it’s a separate one-shot. It doesn’t get in the way of any current Batman stories. It also allows the issue to give the spotlight and full attention to the villain instead of happening in a hero’s comic. This is something we don’t often get to see.
The main reason this book is a must-read is because of Mark Russell. In a sea of comic book event tie-in stories, Russell adds his signature humor while not making the overall end result feel like a superhero parody issue.
I never thought I wanted to see Riddler and King Tut having a conversation while eating chicken skewers in an Egyptian-themed restaurant. Russell takes the fact that some of the Dark Knight’s villains are slightly goofy in planning their evil schemes and uses that to make the conversation feel more realistic. Riddler is upset that Lex passed him over when handing out his “gifts,” which leads to Tut later suggesting they work together to defeat Batman. I would pay to read an ongoing by Russell focusing on these two or other Bat-villains trying to come up with their crazy schemes.
Russell’s story is enhanced by Scott Godlewski’s art and Marissa Louise’s colors. There’s a natural charm to the visuals that perfectly fits the vibe of the story. The combination makes this issue stand out. This is a comic that will live on after the Year of the Villain event ends.
It’s important to note that this comic is more than a humorous and enthralling look at a couple days in the life of the Riddler. There may be several moments that will bring a smile to your face, but Russell is actually adding some depth to Riddler. The fact of the matter is, Riddler won’t be the same after this. He is affected by what happens here, and we see a major change that will hopefully be picked up somewhere and not forgotten.
Comic book events can offer great opportunities for creators and fans. The numerous comics and tie-ins sometimes can be overwhelming, and it can become difficult to figure out which ones are worth reading. Riddler: Year of the Villain by Russell, Godlewski, and Louise stands apart from the rest. The self-contained one-shot is able to give full attention to the Bat-villain and delivers plenty of humor along with a serious look at the Riddler and how his character can grow from here. If you weren’t a fan of the Riddler before, you’ll definitely be interested in where he goes from here.