“I Know What I Must Become”
Writer: Paul Dano
Artist: Stevan Subic
Letterer: Clayton Cowles
Review by Steven Lee Sharpe
The Riddler: Year One #3 is the issue where all the cracks that have been showing in Edward Nashton’s fragile state of mind begin to fracture. We’re one step closer to him becoming the Riddler, as seen in Matt Reeves’s The Batman movie.
The previous issue saw Edward uncover more evidence of money from criminal activities being moved between companies on the books of the accountancy firm he works for. One of the companies receiving money is the Renewal scheme set up by Thomas Wayne to help the underprivileged.
Having reported his concerns to his managers he is told to instead look into the accounts of Wayne industries. Meanwhile, he discovers that someone listed as a company owner – Mr. Joop – is collecting money drops via one business and channeling them into another company called Waterfront Industries. Edward discovers that Joop has been skimming the money to give to his daughter, who’s a single mother. This has serious repercussions, which leave Edward scared for his own safety.
The note of tragedy through both preceding issues is that Edward recognizes the wrongdoing and is desperate to report it. We know that he will eventually become a villain, so it’s unsettling to see that his moral compass is so true in the early stages and that there’s no glimpse of the homicidal tendencies that grip him in The Batman movie, aside from his extreme anxieties and neuroses.
The Riddler: Year One #3 continues in this vein. There’s a nice tie to Riddler’s backstory when the vagrant tells the desk officer that the name given to him by the man who handed him the package was Patrick Parker. It’s a name that The Riddler has used in comics before and it flashed up in The Batman movie when he’s arrested and police find two ID cards, one stating his Edward Nashton identity and a second showing Patrick Parker.
Despite his fear, Edward’s still trying to do the right thing and for a brief time he feels a little power over his situation, con, but Joop’s daughter’s been coerced into continuing her father’s wrongdoing. When he receives another veiled threat outside his home, the psychological demons that haunt Edward begin to grow larger, except now he begins to see another version of himself lurking in the darkness. His reflection is shown to move independently of him, and we also see once again from the previous issue, the image of something baby-like trapped in the eyepiece of his glasses.
Once again, artist Stevan Subic’s role is to accentuate what’s only hinted at in the writing. When the text in two panels simply says, “I see danger around every corner” and “can’t hold this alone much longer,” Subic paints grotesque demons surrounding Edward in sickly yellows. He uses darkness well to convey Edward’s mysterious, scary world as he sees it. There are smudges of light from headlights or lamps, and barely noticeable images of bats in the shadows. Even in daylight, Gotham feels as murky and grimy as the bottom of the sea.
The art almost feels like a contradiction to the sympathetic character Paul Dano is creating. As I said in the review of issue two, this could almost be the story of a hero. At one point Edward recounts the problem of wealthy people manipulating property ownership to make themselves richer. It’s difficult not to read it and not feel the burning sense of injustice. What would you do in Edward’s position?
Once again, the irony is that all the while, Edward’s desperate for help from Batman. Bruce Wayne wanted the image of the Dark Knight to strike fear into the hearts of criminals, so what does it mean when Edward sees hope and comfort in the powerfully drawn image of Batman outside his window? At his lowest point, Edward finds inspiration in the image of the cowl to continue his investigation.
As he begins to put the pieces of his investigation together, however, his mind fractures. Subic conjures up more twisted imagery to communicate Edward’s descent. By the end, it feels that the joy at the clarity he begins to feel is simply for the dark path ahead of him.
The pieces to becoming The Riddler are coming together in The Riddler: Year One #3 – the focus on Edward’s gloves as he breaks into a building, and the question mark he draws in the dust are tantalizing, yet also heart-breaking. We want Edward Nashton to succeed in bringing down the villains in the story, but we know what it will mean for his personality.
Subic’s art continues to convey the psychological breakdown so well that if the demons Edward is seeing were real, this comic would be classed a horror.
Images Courtesy of DC Entertainment