Friday 25 November 2022

The Riddler: Year One #1 Review (Paul Dano, Stevan Subic)

Edward Nashton is a desperately unhappy forensic accountant who uncovers a shady account - that his boss then tells him to ignore, unless he wants to lose his job. Something’s rotten in the state of Gotham… but, to Edward’s delight, a bat-shaped beacon seems to signal change in the blighted city. He and the Batman - they’re gonna be besties right???

I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised given the preponderance of Hollywood actors dipping their (John) wicks into comics these days, but the most notable thing about The Riddler’s own Year One arc is that it’s written by Paul Dano, the actor who played Riddler in the recent R-Patz Batman movie. And to be fair to Dano, The Riddler: Year One #1 isn’t a poorly-written comic, it’s just completely pointless and uninteresting.

The arc is a prequel to the Riddler’s story in the movie, although I remember little of that character’s story because the movie was so disappointingly bad. The impression I was left with though was that we didn’t need to see Eddie’s story up to him becoming Riddler - origin stories, particularly for famous characters, are so redundant in movies at this point that you can skip them entirely and the audience will tend to forgive, if not thank, you for it.

Eddie’s character isn’t an especially compelling portrait either. He’s got mental issues, self-esteem issues, he likes puzzles, he haunts a 4chan-style board dedicated to the Batman. So far, so meh.

The pointlessness of the story is underlined by what we see here: a gloomy Eddie with one-dimensional twerps lording it over him and making him feel small. The accounting firm he’s at and the business it’s protecting are so obviously corrupt that there’s no intrigue there, but the comic still seems to think the reader will be wondering if the mob is behind it all or not when there couldn’t be any other interpretation. It’s such a simplistic and unengaging story.

Stevan Subic’s art is quite good. It surprisingly matches Bill Sienkiewicz’s cover art - often the cover artist is someone famous and the interior art, by a less established name, tends to be quite different, but there’s a similarity in style between the two artists so that’s pleasant to see. Riddler is drawn to look like Dano too so I think we’re firmly in the Matt Reeves version of Batman with this comic.

It’s not a badly written or drawn comic but it is lacking in anything approaching a unique, entertaining or captivating story. The Riddler: Year One #1 makes this miniseries seem entirely unnecessary and underwhelming - a missed opportunity at doing something distinctive, much like the movie it’s spinning out of.

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