cover image The Riddler: Year One

The Riddler: Year One

Paul Dano and Stevan Subic. DC, $29.99 (232p) ISBN 978-1-77952-306-8

Actor Dano’s comics debut turns the backstory he dreamed up to enrich his performance as the Riddler in 2022’s The Batman into a dank origin story of the villain. Drawn with shattered-glass intensity by Subic (the Conan the Cimmerian series), this standalone volume follows Edward Nashton’s steady march from brutalized foundling to sad-sack accountant to rising terrorist warlord looking to “cut out the rot” in Gotham (a phrase he scrawls obsessively across expense forms). Pulling straight from the Paul Schrader and Andrew Kevin Walker handbook for awkward, disaffected psychopaths, Dano lays on the humiliation, self-hatred, and moral disgust until it seems impossible for Edward to do anything but turn murderous vigilante. Though the series’ gothic gloom is heavy-handed, it creates an effectively claustrophobic mood as Edward, accidentally and then obsessively, uncovers a web of deceit connecting Gotham’s Mafiosi with political leaders and industrial tycoons. His desire to purge the city seems borne less from idealistic hatred of corruption and more from a desire to avenge the trauma that broke him in a Wayne family–funded orphanage. It’s a familiar schematic but well done, and deepens a villain often rendered as a punch line. (Nov.)