Batman – One Bad Day: The Riddler by Tom King and Mitch Gerads
Batman – One Bad Day: The Riddler by Tom King and Mitch Gerads from DC Comics #BookReview #Batman #The Riddle #Comic
DC Comics, HB, £11.99
Reviewed by Sarah Deeming
Seemingly for no reason, The Riddler shoots a man in broad daylight with no warning or mystery for Batman to solve that will save the man. It represents a complete change in standard operating procedure for the Riddler, and the unpredictability shakes Batman to the core. How can he defeat the Riddler if all the rules for their interactions are gone? What will happen to the Gotham villian power struggle if the Riddler is as ruthless and unpredictable as the Joker? In this new Gotham, Batman, as he is, may not be enough.
The story of One Bad Day is told in two timelines. One is the here and now, where the Riddler shoots John Oates for no apparent reason and is arrested, while Bruce Wayne deals with guilt that he couldn’t save John. The second is Edward Nygma’s formative years at school. His father, the school’s headmaster, beats Edward if he doesn’t get the right scores, but one of his teachers keeps giving Edward riddles to make him think outside the box. Edward often fails these, so is beaten by his father. We can see how the Riddler we know and love comes into being but does his past hold the key for his new behaviour.
The new Riddler is sinister. He knows people’s secrets and can access their families. Without the rules that usually guide his actions, there is no way of knowing what he will do, and that is quite frightening. It is almost as though a new villain has arrived, and Batman doesn’t know how to stop them. It requires a new approach from Batman which is satisfying and sinister in its own way.
The art is gritty, as befits this story. The beginning and end use POV panels to great effect. I won’t explain what happens in them because that would give too much away, but the circular pattern of the beginning affecting the end closes the story off neatly. The art is very realistic and suspenseful; two scenes, in particular, stand out. One is a three-panel sequence where someone’s fingers are cut off as they are caught in a narrow gap. This is detailed, showing the fingers’ crush as they bend in the wrong direction. The other is a full-page split into three panels where a man is suspended upside down in water. He has a bloodied nose, and a shark is circling, getting closer and closer. It is very atmospheric.
The present-day storyline makes heavy use of green, with the only splashes of colour being blood red or the orange of someone’s hair. The rest is made up of black, white and shades of green. When we are in Edward’s past, everything is in orange, almost sepia representing memories. The colour contrast is striking and grounds us in the storyline.
However, beautiful art and an intense ending do not make up for quite a flat, introverted story. There is limited character development, and the glimpse into Edward’s past feels too overdone in literature at the moment, a person becoming a villain due to an abusive and unloving childhood. For me, this makes One Bad Day: The Riddler a solid three-star story. There is more to recommend it, such as the art and the ending, than not.