Batman Arkham: The Riddler (May 2015)

rid.pngMost Bat-fans glorify and self-identify with The Joker, but in actuality the average DC Comics fanboy is closer to The Riddler: needy, nerdy, narcissistic and way too smug about the lifetime of meaningless trivia they’ve accumulated.

That said, I love the guy. His gimmick is basically self-sabotage disguised as grandiosity. He’s every overweight dork in jean shorts and a fedora who just spent six months in the gym and studying how to be a Pickup Artist, whose core of vicious insecurity is barely inches below his flamboyantly confident new exterior. There’s a neurotic underdog aspect to his criminal insanity, as opposed to the anarchist self-indulgence or melodramatic tragedy of so many other Batman villains.

Chuck Dixon’s 1995 origin story Questions Multiply the Mystery formally introduced this angle on Edward Nygma, and it’s a real pity it wasn’t included in this first official Riddler “greatest hits” trade paperback. Why not? Where also is the other key Riddler appearance of the modern era, Neil Gaiman’s deft little post-modern 1989 tale When is a Door? Essentially a monologue by an aged, wistful Riddler, he reflects on how everything in Gotham’s gotten so grim and gritty of late and there doesn’t seem to be a place anymore for super-criminals like him who just want to have some goofy fun – rather than rack up a body count. A simple observation, but the entire key to Riddler’s role in a post-Dark Knight Returns world: compared to the rest of Batman’s increasingly depraved Rogue’s Gallery, Eddie is relatively something of a gentleman.

Batman Arkham: The Riddler doesn’t include either of those gems, or even a single story from 1984 to 2006. As if there wasn’t a decent Riddler comic for 22 years! Absent any apparent legal reprinting issues, this yawning historical gap seems to have been caused simply by editorial ambivalence. The laziness is there at first glance, from the recycled New 52 cover art to the title – who’s “Batman Arkham”? I gather the idea that the collection is akin to a trip to the E. Nygma cell at Arkham Asylum, but there’s not even an introduction describing the character’s legacy, let alone some “Heh, heh, heh! Welcome to Arkham, kiddies!” kind of Cryptkeeper curtain-opener. Of the 14 compiled issues, the first 9 are from the Golden, Silver and Bronze ages of DC and that alone probably makes the book worthwhile overall, especially for Riddler’s 1948 debut by Bill Finger & Dick Sprang, and 1960s revival by Gardner Fox.

The Riddle-Less Robberies of the Riddler from 1966 is a particularly memorable bit of introspective villain psychoanalysis: Riddler decides to stop leaving riddles and just be a normal thief, only to discover his addictive obsession won’t let him quit. A definitive story, but its inclusion is probably chance. Why, for instance, if you’re only going to reprint two Riddler stories from the whole decade of the 1970s, wouldn’t you want to include the one that Neal Adams drew? It’s like they were picked at random. Even the modern age choices feel arbitrary – like an abysmal 2007 Paul Dini issue of Detective Comics which is primarily a Harley Quinn timewaster using Edward Nygma as mere supporting player. No respect. How appropriate.

The contemporary stuff isn’t all bad, however. Scott Snyder & Ray Fawkes’ 2013 Riddler one-shot Solitaire is the only Batman comic I’ve read since the Animated Series spinoffs to build thoughtfully on the conception of Edward Nygma as a conceited intellectual who doesn’t realize he’s also a lunatic.

Batman Arkham: The Riddler is far from the ideal compendium for one of Batman’s oldest, most unique and iconic adversaries, but asks a fair enough price for all his earliest classic battles of wits in one volume.

CREDITS

Writers, Bill Finger, Gardner Fox, David Vern Reed, Len Wein, Don Kraar, Doug Moench, Paul Dini, Peter Calloway, Scott Snyder, Ray Fawkes, Charles Soule; artists, Dick Sprang, Sheldon Moldoff, Frank Springer, John Calnan, Irv Novick, Carmine Infantino, Don Newton, Don Kramer, Andres Guinaldo, Jeremy Haun, Dennis Calero; editor, Rachel Pinnelas; publisher, DC Comics.

The Wake 5 (December 2013)

289527 20131120094335 largeStarting this issue, I felt a little bad. I only read The Wake to praise Murphy’s art and to mock Snyder’s writing. It’s definitely mock-worthy this time around too, but then he goes and does something even more amazing.

He craps on the story he is telling and then announces he’s going to tell an entirely different story. Apparently one about flying girls. So instead of ripping off The Abyss, Leviathan and whatever other underwater adventures he could… He announces he’s instead going to rip off Waterworld and post-apocalyptic stuff.

Am I spoiling the end of this issue?

No, because this issue–this storyline–isn’t the point. Murphy was just messing around.

It’s the perfect jumping off point too, because it’s clear there’s never going to be anything resembling a good narrative here.

Oh, Contact. He rips Contact off a little here too.

Anyway, crappy writing, great art.

CREDITS

Writer, Scott Snyder; artist, Sean Murphy; colorist, Matt Hollingsworth; letterer, Jared K. Fletcher; editors, Sara Miller and Mark Doyle; publisher, Vertigo.

The Wake 4 (November 2013)

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I’m having a hard time believing it but Snyder is actually getting worse. Oh, there are less characters so the dialogue is a little better, but his ideas are dropping even faster in creativity. If it weren’t for Murphy’s style, I’d think The Wake is supposed to be a joke. Some camp-fest to laugh at all the crazy stuff Snyder can rip off from other places.

I did forgot the really, really terrible scene with the lead character lady talking about her son and how she won’t die unless she gets him HDMI cables first. I can’t believe this comic book has an editor. Not one who can read anyway.

There’s a lot of action, none of it particularly good. For a series where Murphy is the only draw, this issue doesn’t utilize him well at all. Snyder’s script is too terribly paced.

The Wake‘s not improving at all.

CREDITS

Writer, Scott Snyder; artist, Sean Murphy; colorist, Matt Hollingsworth; letterer, Jared K. Fletcher; editors, Sara Miller and Mark Doyle; publisher, Vertigo.

The Wake 3 (September 2013)

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What a bad comic.

I mean, the art is glorious and it does make The Wake worth reading but the writing is godawful.

Snyder is back with his lame dialogue again. On and on it goes. The stuff with protagonist and her son isn’t even the worst and it’s positively dreadful. The Homeland Security guy is back to his awful catchphrases, which is an unpleasant return to say the least.

This issue reveals one of Snyder’s big problems as a writer. He’s impatient. Instead of showing the reader this deep sea rig in scenes, he does it all in expository dialogue so he can rush to the finish with a bunch of the monsters arriving. A few good scenes would have helped the pace–it reads extremely fast, especially as one wants to get away from Snyder’s dialogue–and worked towards giving the cast personalities.

It’s a terrible comic book.

CREDITS

Writer, Scott Snyder; artist, Sean Murphy; colorist, Matt Hollingsworth; letterer, Jared K. Fletcher; editors, Sara Miller and Mark Doyle; publisher, Vertigo.

The Wake 2 (August 2013)

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If “raindrop” is really a term used in folklore studies, how does anyone take folklore studies seriously? It’s out of Michael Crichton.

Except Snyder doesn’t think dinosaurs became birds. He’s real clear on it. Science is clear on the other side of him. It immediately discounts all the pseudo-science in Wake. It and Snyder giving Homeland Security a bio weapons department.

It’s a bit of a talking heads issue. Well, talking heads and hallucinations. Snyder packs it with time killing hallucinations. The Murphy art makes up for it all to a certain point, except when Snyder’s being just too dumb.

One has to wonder of his editors do anything whatsoever. Like read the script to the comic.

There’s some more will the flash forward to the end of the planet Earth. I think we’re supposed to care but I can’t be sure.

At least Snyder’s dialogue is getting better.

CREDITS

Writer, Scott Snyder; artist, Sean Murphy; colorist, Matt Hollingsworth; letterer, Jared K. Fletcher; editors, Sara Miller and Mark Doyle; publisher, Vertigo.

The Wake 1 (July 2013)

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So if Michael Bay is his generation’s version of Tony Scott, Scott Snyder is trying really hard to be his generations version of early Brian Michael Bendis. The cuteness in the dialogue is hilariously bad. If it weren’t for Sean Murphy’s art, one might think The Wake is supposed to be a comedy.

I could actually sit and write about the dialogue devices Snyder uses to be cute, but I won’t bother. Being cute is a small problem compared to the rest of the dialogue. He can’t write honest dialogue. He’s not just writing bad expository dialogue, he’s writing weak dialogue without any sense of his characters. Maybe his editors told him everyone has to sound different so he picked some phrases and cadences to repeat.

But there’s the art. Murphy gets to do fake super-science, general ocean life and Waterworld. Every panel, even with dumb dialogue, is glorious.

CREDITS

Writer, Scott Snyder; artist, Sean Murphy; colorist, Matt Hollingsworth; letterer, Jared K. Fletcher; editors, Sara Miller and Mark Doyle; publisher, Vertigo.

Batman 3 (January 2012)

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Oh, Scott Snyder, you had me going–even through Bruce and his male love interest flirting while discussing the mystery–until you tried a hard cliffhanger with Batman dying.

Batman is not going to die this issue of Batman, Scott Snyder, and your readers know it.

Immediately preceding the cliffhanger is a series of nice pages–Batman finding these hidden “Owlman” lairs around the city, something the World’s Greatest Detective has missed his endire career–and the visuals work. It’s cool to see where the lairs are, how they look the same, how they look different. Up until the cliffhanger, this issue is an exercise in how to keep exposition lively.

Capullo still draws his fit gentleman exactly the same, except facial hair, and without much life. But Snyder’s multiple long dialogue sequences still work–the dialogue is strong (if long).

It’s neat, though the cliffhanger doesn’t reward the reader.

CREDITS

The Thirteenth Hour; writer, Scott Snyder; penciller, Greg Capullo; inker, Jonathan Glapion; colorist, FCO Plascencia; letterers, Richard Starkings and Jimmy Betancourt; editors, Harvey Richards, Katie Kubert and Mike Marts; publisher, DC Comics.

Swamp Thing 3 (January 2012)

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It’s terrible.

It’s incredibly terrible.

Snyder’s first couple issues never even hinted at his terrible idea for Swamp Thing.

Though he does seem to think a callback to the Swamp Thing movie is going to earn him brownie points… as he craps on Len Wein, Alan Moore… Rick Veitch… Nancy Collins… Josh Dysart… Well, maybe not Collins.

What’s so stupendously bad about the plot–from the editorial standpoint–is how Snyder’s creating his own organic elemental, which is already going on over in Animal Man. I assumed the two things would tie together.

Apparently not.

I’m also not clear why Abby is so badly written. I understand Snyder’s trying to revive the character, make her tough and whatnot, but it didn’t have to be ludicrous.

He also takes the book away from Alec Holland, who–shockingly–turns out to have been a better lead.

And the final reveal’s crap.

CREDITS

Come Hither, Child; writer, Scott Snyder; artists, Victor Ibáñez and Yanick Paquette; colorist, Nathan Fairbairn; letterer, John J. Hill; editor, Matt Idelson; publisher, DC Comics.

Batman 2 (December 2011)

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I’d forgotten the cliffhanger in the previous issue. I only remembered—Dick Grayson: Murderer!—when Dick shows up in that lame new Nightwing outfit and he and Bruce talk about it.

It’s a strange thing to establish so early—the series is going to have unfulfilling cliffhangers. Maybe Snyder’s trying to do something retro with it. When Batman stops the museum robbers, it felt like Batman is supposed to be a mix of innocuous and extreme.

Snyder’s also working on his bromance. Bruce and his twin (Capullo can’t keep Bruce and the mayoral candidate straight… not even with different hairstyles) have a lengthy, talky scene together.

Capullo’s a lot better with the costumed stuff (even Nightwing) than he is with the people.

There’s some cool, movie-ready technology stuff with Gordon and the issue’s generally fine.

The ending, which ties to the opening narration, should be a lot stronger though.

CREDITS

Trust Fall; writer, Scott Snyder; penciller, Greg Capullo; inker, Jonathan Glapion; colorist, FCO Plascencia; letterer, Richard Starkings and Jimmy Betancourt; editors, Janelle Asselin, Katie Kubert and Mike Marts; publisher, DC Comics.

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