By Peter Calloway (writer), Andres Guinaldo (pencils), Raul Fernandez (inks) Tomeu Morey (colors) and Patrick Brosseau (letters)
The Story: From his cell in Arkham, the Joker tells us a story about Edward Nygma’s attempt to solve one of the greatest riddles of them all: what makes a person fall in love?
What’s Good: I’m of two minds about this book, but before we dive into the details, let me answer the most important question right up front by saying that this book is quite good, and it’s worth the $2.99 if you’re any sort of fan of the Riddler (or the Joker, for that matter.)
Now here’s the thing about this story: it’s tremendous fun (and quite moving to me, but then I’m a sentimental sap at heart), but calling it a Riddler story is something of a misnomer. Joker (in full forth-wall breaking mode) is the one telling this tale, after all, and so the book becomes less about the Riddler himself and more about the Joker and his unreliable narration. We are ultimately left having no real idea what parts of this story are truthful; in fact, we have no real assurance that the whole thing isn’t simply a tall tale spun entirely out of the Clown Prince’s own deranged imagination—an elaborate joke on the reader, if you will.
With that established, the key question now becomes how it affects the quality of the reading experience. I will say that if you’re coming to this hoping for a straightforward Riddler story, you may be disappointed in ambiguous nature of the story’s reality. If you are willing to roll with it, however, and look beyond the plot, I think any Riddler fan will find plenty of (surprisingly deep and astute) characterization that will stand and endure well past the narrative itself.
In addition to being very well written and lovely to look at, the detail-oriented reader will have a fantastic time picking up all of the little details and references in the panels. As one who has a thing for riddles and visual puzzles, that aspect of the book made it well worth the price of admission alone. If you have a similar proclivity, I recommend it even more highly. (And just how many card references ARE there in the Riddler panels? I’ve managed to count six so far, but I’m sure there are more than that.)
What’s Not So Good: This comic accomplishes what it sets out to do very well. The writing is strong, and the art is detailed and excellent. I will say that the Joker’s voice feels a little bit inconsistent, but I’m willing to let that slide given his mental state and what a tremendously difficult character he is to write. Calloway captures the Joker’s character very well; well enough that the little dialog hiccups don’t detract much from the story at all.
Conclusion: An unexpected story, but a treat to read (and re-read.) There are enough details in the book, and especially in the art, to keep any real riddle-fan busy sorting truth from fiction for quite some time.