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Being unfamiliar with the origin Joker’s Asylum one shots, I seized the opportunity to read the first one shot, The Riddler, for Asylum II. My first impression was that it was a story written for a child and may have been a discarded episode from Batman Animated Series. The fact is that writer Peter Calloway (Brothers & Sisters), not surprisingly, writes the issue very much like a TV show.
This episode… sorry, I mean issue, begins with the Joker keeping the other patients at the Asylum awake with his wacky antics. He breaks the fourth wall looking out at the reader and tells them a tale about a riddle the Riddler couldn’t solve. The Joker continues narrating, as the reader is shown an art heist by none other than the Riddler. Everything is going fine until one of the hostages’ stands up to the Riddler and asks him what exactly he thinks he’s doing. From that moment on the Riddler is infatuated by the red head.
The Riddler makes it out of the museum with only one painting after Batman shows up and puts a stop to his nonsense. But the Riddler is love struck by the red head and begins learning all he can about her. He sends her roses and candies, none of which she accepts. All the while he tries to get into her head, to figure out how to get into her heart. He pays off her student loan, which I find pretty impossible to do with stolen money, but hey… whatever works. That too is met with contempt.
The Riddler then begins reinventing himself into a person she would love. During this reinvention he’s greeted by a mystery villain whose identity is covered up by the artist by drawing a new Batman villain in each panel. The mystery villain is seeking the Riddler’s help for a heist, but he just won’t join the crook.
Continuing his journey of reinvention, the Riddler begins reliving the red head’s life. He wins over her father; he visits her room and studies her via her friends. He’s still rejected by her, but he stays the course. Finally the mystery villain steps in and holds the red head’s father hostage until she goes to the Riddler and accepts him. In life many of us want what you can’t have, so when he gets her the red head is later quickly discarded.
This entire issue felt like Calloway hanging out and getting to know the characters. The Riddler is in his bathrobe or sulking about his apartment for the majority of the issue and the red head is spoken about more than shown. But the real problem is the narrative. The Joker is telling the story as if he lived it. It’s never explained how or why he knows so much about the Riddler or these events; you’re just to take it at face value. The entire issue is just that, a shallow attempt at telling a quirky tale.
If there’s one character that Calloway straight off misses, it’s the Joker. Nothing the Joker does or says is in character for him. He’s a water downed version of himself that’s been reduced to annoying others while they sleep. I’m sorry, but where’s the joke in that? Even his involvement in the Riddler’s story is out of character for him.
What is good about the issue is the art. The characters all look as they should and if the story had been more adventurous the art may have been really great. As it is though, artist Andres Guinaldo’s (Son of Hulk, Dark Reign Hawkeye) art looks shackled and held back. He’s never given the opportunity to do anything interesting or remotely fun with the characters. He definitely does the best he can and is by far the strongest component of the issue.
The issue is boring and really has nothing going for it. It doesn’t feel, act, or look like a Batman title, meaning it’s just that… a title. Even though the book stars the Riddler there’s no riddle to be found in the issue. There’s a vague attempt at riddle, but only in the loosest definition of the word. If this is any indication of the other Joker Asylum II one shots, then personally I’ll take a pass.
Story – 3.5
Plot – 3.5
Characters – 1.5
Art – 6.0
Overall – 3.6
Here’s a riddle for you: What bores upon reading, disappoints upon thought and reviews at 3.6? It’s this book! Follow Dustin on Twitter and ask him anything in the comments below.