The Riddler: Year of the Villain #1
Written by Mark Russell
Art by Scott Godlewski and Marissa Louise
Lettering by Travis Lanham
Published by DC Comics
Review by David Pepose
‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10
With two of Gotham’s most puzzle-centric villains teaming up, The Riddler: Year of the Villain #1 is a strong one-shot that brings a warmth and sense of humor to a seminal Batman supporting player’s origins. While the final answer to Edward Nigma’s riddle isn’t quite the punchline you might expect, writer Mark Russell and artist Scott Godlewski have produced a surprisingly funny and effective story.
What makes a frustrated genius into a supervillain? And where does he go when all of his riddles have been met with failure? We’ve seen origin stories of the Riddler before, but the way that Russell portrays the character as stuck in a rut — palling around with King Tut and commiserating about how Batman always beats them up. It’s bleakly hilarious, and Russell sets up Nygma’s existential crisis nicely thanks to Tut being a surprisingly cheerful foil. In Russell’s hands, Riddler and Tut’s team-up feels like a total no-brainer, but he really evokes the same easy humor as Superior Foes of Spider-Man, in which these losers are made all the more lovable thanks to their commitment to their increasingly failed bit.
But Russell’s story is aided by Scott Godlewski’s cartoony linework, which really pulls double-duty for making this one-shot work — not only does he bring the comedy with the expressiveness of the burned-out Nygma and the super-excited Tut, but he also throws in the prerequisite Batman set pieces, which shows the Dark Knight bouncing off statues of Anubis and dodging projectile hieroglyphics. In certain ways, Godlewski’s work has gotten more angular since his earlier work, evoking the dynamism of Scott McDaniel on Nightwing.
That all said, while the setup of this puzzle-based teamup is superb, I’m not 100 certain if The Riddler: Year of the Villain #1 sticks the landing — in part, because the way this one-shot ends feels like it will be immediately reversed. We’ve seen Edward Nygma doubt himself over the years, but at the end of the day, the tragedy of the Riddler is he’s far too pathological to ever hang up the question mark bowler hat — and seeing him decide that this game of riddles and clues is trapping him feels both too easy and just unbelievable in the grand scheme of comics.
Perhaps that’s the tragedy of this story — that while Lex Luthor tries to inspire Nygma to exact change in himself, the very inertia of superhero comic books will keep that from ever happening. But that all said, while the finale of this one-shot might not necessarily add up from a storytelling point of view, Russell and Godlewski do such fun character work that it’s hard not to recommend picking up these Gotham City losers’ adventures in The Riddler: Year of the Villain #1, showing that even in defeat, in the right hands every bad guy can have his day.
Amazing Spider-Man #29 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Kat Calamia; ‘Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): Like it or not, the old Parker luck strikes again. Mary Jane prepares to leave for her film shoot as Peter promises to see her off – but we’ve been through this rodeo before. We all know how it ends — Peter’s sister, Teresa, arrives with a mission only Spidey can tackle. Peter is tired that the responsibility of Spider-Man keeps getting in the way of his relationship with MJ, which leaves the issue on a pretty major cliffhanger that can have some heavy repercussions for Spider-Man’s mythos. Amazing Spider-Man #29 is a great character-driven issue that doesn’t focus on any petty drama between MJ and Peter, but instead has the duo wanting to break their cycle of disappointment. This adds for some entertaining scenes with Aunt May, Teresa, and Carlie as well. Francesco Manna does a great job at making this a very expressive issue, especially with Carlos Lopez’s bright color work. Amazing Spider-Man is always at its best when the series includes Peter’s supporting cast, and this issue does this in stride as it continues to ramp up the title’s drama.
Go Go Power Rangers #23 (Published by BOOM! Studios; Review by Kat Calamia; ‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): In Go Go Power Rangers #23, a bunny becomes a giant monster – so it’s a pretty average day for the Power Rangers. This seemingly average "monster of the week" allows the Power Rangers to let loose with some great action sequences, but the highlight of the issue is that Trini doesn’t give her final blow with a punch, but instead uses her smarts to defeat the rabbit. This only scratches the surface with what Ryan Parrott and Sina Grace provide as they continue to expand upon the consequences of “Shattered Grid.” The writing duo even leaves some time for a one-on-one conversation between Matt and Kimberly as Kim finally finds someone to open up to about her Ranger life. But should Matt be trusted? There are a few hints that Matt likes the idea of being a Ranger, but how far will he go to harness this power? On artwork, Franceso Mortario does a great job at perfectly juggling this multi-layered story with a lot of expressiveness from the issue’s more emotional moments and jam-packed action. Go Go Power Rangers #23 is the perfect balance of old school fun, character development, and huge plot progression.
Invisible Woman #3 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Kat Calamia; ‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): Marvel has an espionage hit on their hands, and it’s not from the likes of the company’s more famous spies like Black Widow and Nick Fury – it’s Invisible Woman. Mark Waid and Mattia De Iulis showcases the seamless use of Sue’s powers and wits, creating the perfect super-spy thriller. De Iulis’ visuals are breathtaking as Waid continues to put Sue in many high stakes situations to up the intensity of this action packed title. Invisible Woman #3 is a true nailbiter with a perfectly paced mystery to boot.