April 21st, 2012

Two-Face... FOREVER!!!

Comic Review: Eddie Nigma plays the wild card in "Batman: Run, Riddler, Run"

When it comes to the famous Batman villains, few have gotten less respect over the years than the Riddler.

Only the Penguin surpasses Eddie in terms of being scorned by writers and fans alike, and that disdain seemed to reach its greatest heights around the late 80's, early 90's. In this period, we saw Riddler stories that saw him as a has-been (Neil Gaiman's When Is A Door?), a never-was (Denny O'Neil's Riddles), and a never-will-be (the newspaper comic strip), with the apparent consensus being that he was a poor man's Joker, a toothless leftover of the campy show who used a annoying gimmick that supplied his own defeat every time.

And yet, this very same period gave us one of the very greatest Riddler appearances ever, one which should still be a guideline for all writers as to what makes the character tick and shows just why he is uniquely great. So why does no one ever remember this story? Why does no one ever talk about Gerard Jones and Mark Badger's Batman: Run, Riddler, Run?



Well, one big reason why this story has fallen under the radar could be the art. Personally, I avoided reading this book for years because I couldn't stand Badger's artwork. He comes from the same school of 80's artists whom I normally love (like Mark Badger, Kyle Baker, and Bill Sienkiewicz, just to name a few), but his artwork is far more angular and abstract to the point of nearly being grotesque. That said, I've since gained an appreciation for his work partially thanks to this great interview with Badger conducted by the great Michel Fiffe, and partially because of my late-blossoming love of this story. Well, the Riddler of this story, at any rate.

The story itself is a bit more wonky, but that's to be expected of Gerard Jones: author of my all-time favorite run on Green Lantern, as well as... lesser works like Batman: Fortunate Son. Yes, the "Batman thinks rock 'n roll is the Devil's music!" comic. Jones and Badger's first Batman collaboration, Batman: Jazz, was a similarly oddball affair, focusing on Batman's search for a missing jazz legend. That story felt very much like Batman awkwardly wandering into an abstract 80's-tastic jazz battle, which led to things like our hero fighting evil sax-playing monsters known as the Brothers of the Bop.

... On second thought, that's kinda so ridiculous that it's awesome. It sure as hell ain't boring.

Which finally brings us back to Run, Riddler, Run. Much like Jazz, it features Batman awkwardly inserted into areas outside of his expertise. For Jazz, it was a whole culture of music. For B:RRR, it's the class war between homeless squatters and the rich people with the cops on their side. It's usually thorny to mix real life issues that challenge popular conceptions of law and ethics with the black-and-white morality of Batman comics, and it doesn't help that the villain is very dated for directly after the Cold War. It's a mixed bag of a comic by one of the oddest creative teams ever to tackle Batman, and it'd still be worth reading on those merits alone even without the Riddler.

But with the Riddler, it's a must-read refutation to everyone who misunderstands the Riddler. Jones and Badger, to their credit, don't try to counter this with the contrived tactic of trying to make the Riddler a #1 arch-villain badass. Instead, they take a more subtle approach, making Eddie a wild card with a game all his own...



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