In Batman – One Bad Day #1: The Riddler, a world-class creative team takes the Riddler from being a punchline to looking like the monster terrifying you in the dark. Unfortunately, this powerful, done-in-one is bound by its own central conceit and inadvertently pulls its punch just as the final bell rings.
Writer Tom King tailors this tale with painstaking patience, using flashbacks to paint a picture of a young man caught between impossible expectations that explain the Riddler we come to find here. Batman does some detective work before ultimately being undone by the same "superpower" of preparation and planning that he uses to such great effect. With the advantage of actually being willing to murder, Edward "Nygma" turns all of Gotham into a cowardly and superstitious lot, out Bat-ting the Bat. Visual team Mitch Gerads and Clayton Cowles take a lot of talking heads scenes and flashes of visuals that are absolutely horrifying, especially with the all-black panels.
The problem comes in the central conceit: if the Riddler levels himself up by letting go of his pathology and, well, moniker-defining shtick, especially without the narrative thrust of Batman's own compulsion, Nygma becomes just a garden variety serial killer, like any of a number of brilliant, broken man-boys who went into murder instead of therapy, a more charismatic and less physical Victor Zsasz or a less whimsical Joker. That's less interesting by a considerable margin. The solution, likewise, is an empty promise: to do what is needed to make the ending true; Batman can't be Batman; he becomes someone else. That also has grave concerns.
If you wanna yank this story out of continuity, call it an Elseworlds, consider it a parallel Earth where Batman and the Riddler basically decide not to be Batman and Riddler, go for it. At an eight-dollar cover price, that's a long road for a flight of fanfiction fantasy and speculation that cannot reasonably work in a shared continuity.
The craft used in creating this book is breathtaking. If it were labeled as an Elseworlds, or better yet, told with analogies Watchmen style, this would be a bright star. As it is, it's good, but clearly, a cute detour before we turn back to the same circular road. RATING: HONORABLE MENTION.
Batman – One Bad Day #1: The Riddler
By Tom King, Mitch Gerads
The Dark Knight's greatest villains get their greatest stories yet! The Riddler, Two-Face, the Penguin, Mr. Freeze, Catwoman, Bane, Clayface, and Ra's al Ghul — Batman's most iconic villains are all given 64-page Prestige format specials that show why they are the greatest villains in all of comics, spearheaded by todayâs top talent. We begin with Batman – One Bad Day: The Riddler! Tom King and Mitch Gerads, the Eisner Award-winning duo behind Mister Miracle, The Sheriff of Babylon, and Strange Adventures, reunite to dive deep into the mind of Batman's most intellectual foe — the Riddler. The Riddler has killed a man in broad daylight for seemingly no reason, but there's always a reason. The Riddler is always playing a game, there are always rules. Batman will reach his wits' end trying to figure out the Riddler's true motivation in this epic psychological thriller; this is not to be missed!