I love short little trades that I can breeze through on my lunch break, but at the same time it can sometimes be difficult to find enough to say about such a brief story. Batman: Riddler – The Riddle Factory is one such instance. This single-story trade opens with the Riddler hosting a pirated television show titled, “The Riddle Factory”, in which he allows his guests to answer riddles under a level of duress. Once all the answers are obtained, they provide the answer to the episode’s main riddle, which ultimately sheds light on a lascivious secret of one of Gotham’s elite.
Other than breaking some broadcasting rules, Riddler isn’t exactly breaking the law per se, but the effects of his shows leave numerous people dead, as they are unable to live with the revelation of their darkest secrets.
Batman is investigating the case, convinced that Edward Nigma has a more sinister plan than simply gaining notoriety on an illicit television show. His detective skills ultimately lead him to find that Riddler is searching for a long-lost hidden fortune of a long-dead mob boss, and that his television stunts are merely a theatrical front to distract the police from his real pursuit.
Of course, Batman manages to get one step ahead of Riddler at the last second, and as Nygma thinks he has escaped he is arrested and taken into custody.
And so the trade ends. Riddler is behind bars once again, and his television exploits are over.
I had high hopes for this trade when I began reading. It had the makings of a thoroughly entertaining story, and yet it fell flat. Details of the Riddler’s actual plot are glossed over on one page, with writer Matt Wagner choosing to focus on the television aspect in more detail. I didn’t have a problem with those details, as they were certainly more unique and engaging than the hidden mob-money angle, but I couldn’t help but feel that this was a missed opportunity. Riddler’s television spots could have been used for any number of purposes, and “The Riddle Factory” was certainly unique enough to carry the trade. Instead, it felt as though Wagner had a great premise for a story but couldn’t decide what to do with it, so he slapped on a separate, cliched story to tie it all together.
What’s more, Batman’s brief analysis of Nygma lacked the deeper understanding I loved so much in previous Batman issues, and left the story feeling a bit flat and one-dimensional. This story had plenty of potential, but it just wasn’t fully realized.
Luckily for me, this trade (much like Riddler’s television career) was brief.