Batman: One Bad Day: The Riddler #1: Dreadful Reins comic reviewsBatman: One Bad Day: The Riddler #1: Dreadful Reins

Batman: One Bad Day: The Riddler #1: Dreadful Reins comic reviewsIn Batman: One Bad Day: The Riddler #1, “Dreadful Reins,” Tom King and Mitch Gerads create a wonderful one-shot, a stand-alone story told in just a little over sixty pages. This story won an Eisner in 2023, and certainly deserves recognition. In this comic book, the Riddler is introduced as a man who is very powerful, though his power over others is never fully explained. One day he walks up to a random businessman, pulls out his gun, and shoots him in the head point-blank. And the Riddler’s violence escalates from there.

He is caught on video camera, and on page four, we get to view this video in nine panels as we hear the voice-over of the police discussing what they, and we, are watching. Then, on page five, the Riddler turns to the camera, holds out a business-card sized piece of paper with a picture of Batman’s symbol on it. And then he waits around until the police take him into custody.

The Riddler demands that Batman come to see him, but Gordon is reluctant to meet the demands of a deranged killer, but when the Riddler start torturing and then killing the guards, Gordon eventually gives in to his request and asks Batman for help. And then we get a tension-filled meeting between the super villain and Batman at the prison. When the Riddler plays on Batman’s mercy and walks off into the night, we are confronted with Batman’s weakness. As hard as he is, and we see him torture informants, he is not willing to kill, and thus the Riddler holds some power over him. How will Batman defeat the Riddler this time is the question on our minds as readers, you will have to decide whether that question is answered satisfactorily.

But this basic plot is not the real strength of the comic. What makes this comic book a great one is, first, the art. Mitch Gerads creates gorgeous visuals, and it is simply a pleasure to flip through the pages and look at this comic. The second aspect of the book that makes it so good is that we get some backstory on the Riddler. Much of the comic shows us the villain when he was a young man trying to please his father, the headmaster at an expensive, exclusive high school. His father is never satisfied with his son’s performance, particularly because he keeps getting less than perfect scores on the tests for a teacher who includes for points riddles that the young boy can never answer. Thus we are given an origin for the Riddler’s interest in riddles.

I have read five-star comics by Tom King, and compared to those, I am willing to give this comic only four stars. I find the power the Riddler has over the city a little too unbelievable, and I am not sure I am satisfied with the ending, though it certainly has a punch to it. The comic book is certainly worth seeking out, but if you are new to Tom King, there are many other titles to start with, such as The Vision for Marvel, Mister Miracle for DC, and Sheriff of Babylon for Vertigo.

Published in June 2023. The Riddler is one of Batman’s most intellectual villains and the one who lays out his clues the most deliberately. The Riddler is always playing a game, there are always rules. But what happens when The Riddler kills someone in broad daylight for seemingly no reason? No game to play. No cypher to breakdown. Batman will reach his wit’s end trying to figure out the Riddler’s true motivation in this incredible thriller!


  • Brad Hawley

    BRAD HAWLEY, who's been with us since April 2012, earned his PhD in English from the University of Oregon with areas of specialty in the ethics of literature and rhetoric. Since 1993, he has taught courses on The Beat Generation, 20th-Century Poetry, 20th-Century British Novel, Introduction to Literature, Shakespeare, and Public Speaking, as well as various survey courses in British, American, and World Literature. He currently teaches Crime Fiction, Comics, and academic writing at Oxford College of Emory University where his wife, Dr. Adriane Ivey, also teaches English. They live with their two young children outside of Atlanta, Georgia.

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