Skip to main content

Riddler gets in on 'The Killing Joke' and may even push Batman to kill in 'One Bad Day'

Batman: One Bad Day - The Riddler #1 art(Image credit: DC)

Batman is having One Bad Day in a series of villain-focused one-shots, starting with Eddie Nygma, AKA the Riddler. And although Bruce Wayne has been playing cat and mouse games with this particular villain for years, things shift dramatically in this story. 

Spoilers ahead for Batman: One Bad Day – The Riddler #1 

(Image credit: DC)
(opens in new tab)

Batman: One Bad Day – The Riddler #1, written by Tom King, illustrated by Mitch Gerads, and lettered by Clayton Cowles, is a double-sized one-shot that explores a new era in the Riddler's life: abandoning the rules of a "game" played with Batman, and instead pivoting toward a killing spree where the targets are seemingly random.

In the process, he reveals he may have played a role in 'The Killing Joke' – the infamous story in which the Joker shoots Barbara Gordon and she becomes paralyzed from the waist down – and also pushes Batman to the absolute brink. 

No, really: The Riddler may push Batman to kill in 'One Bad Day.'

Here's how.

How did the Riddler become a killer?

art from Batman: One Bad Day - The Riddler #1 (Image credit: DC)
(opens in new tab)

Batman: One Bad Day – The Riddler #1 is told primarily through the Riddler's point of view, and we get flashbacks that reveal how he became who he is today. As an adolescent, his father – the headmaster of a prestigious academy – pushes Eddie to be the very best he can be because of his genius intellect. 

When a teacher threatens to report Eddie for cheating on an exam, Eddie kills him in cold blood by slamming his face repeatedly into the blacktop of the school basketball court.

You see, despite his intellect, young Eddie becomes frustrated by riddles – and this particular teacher keeps putting them at the end of exams, meaning Edward gets less than perfect marks, which upsets his father. 

He eventually decides to cheat by figuring out the next riddle and memorizing the answer (which backfires when the teacher changes it at the last minute and Eddie doesn't read the question). His teacher tells him to lighten up. Stop studying so hard. Play a game every once in a while.

As origin stories go, it's frightening, especially considering how far the Riddler takes things as he continues killing.

In addition to establishing this backstory, 'One Bad Day' features two key scenes that could have huge impacts on Batman himself and the DC Universe as a whole. 

The Riddler claims responsibility for 'The Killing Joke'

art from Batman: One Bad Day - The Riddler #1 (Image credit: DC)

The first takes place in the Gotham City police precinct, where Eddie tells Commissioner Gordon that the night his daughter Barbara was shot by the Joker in the infamous story 'The Killing Joke,' it was because the Riddler gave the other villain the information he needed to successfully break into the Gordon family home. 

There's no way of knowing if this is actually true, of course – the Riddler is a notoriously unreliable narrator – but the words are effective and impactful. Jim Gordon is enraged enough to physically hurt Eddie, who takes the escalation as a challenge to keep prodding.

This conversation leads to a series of events where the Riddler slowly but surely manipulates the entire Gotham City Police Department into either shooting each other out of fear or neglecting their duties altogether because they fear for their families. Every move Gordon makes, the Riddler counters it – much like the "game" he's played with Batman for years. 

At one point, Jim mentions trying to place police outside of the Riddler's hotel suite after he escapes Arkham Asylum (again), and Barbara calls the next day to tearfully tell him that someone poisoned her cats. No one is safe. And that's all because the Riddler has grown tired of the back-and-forth with Batman.

Does Batman break his one rule? 

art from Batman: One Bad Day - The Riddler #1 (Image credit: DC)

This all leads to the second key scene in 'One Bad Day' that could change everything for the Dark Knight and the city he fights so hard to protect. After repeated requests for Batman to meet Eddie at Arkham, Bruce finally shows up, and while Eddie idly shoots hoops – recalling the flashback where he killed his teacher as a teen – he reveals his new strategy for undoing the Caped Crusader.

Rather than killing in patterns and leaving behind clues, weaving elaborate labyrinths for Batman to unravel and solve, he's going to simply… live his life. He's going to kill people and commit crimes, and each time Batman – or the GCPD, for that matter – attempts to come after or stop him, the Riddler will kill a random person. He won't leave a clue. It won't be a puzzle.

He'll just kill.

And so he does. As the issue progresses, we learn that no one in the GCPD will risk the Riddler's wrath, rendering law enforcement effectively useless; the Five Families will do whatever he wants after all their wives are killed; the banks will give him whatever he wants without even reporting the theft. And all the while, Batman has to contend with an important truth: The only way to stop the Riddler is to kill him.

And on the final page of Batman: One Bad Day – The Riddler #1, it seems like he might actually break his one rule.

As Batman appears behind the Riddler, who's looking in the mirror, Bruce says, "Riddle me this, Edward. Though we meet but once, you know me forever thereafter. What am I?"

The rest of the panels are black. The answer to the riddle is "Death." So the implication is that Batman actually does kill the Riddler… which, if true, is a huge change in status quo for the hero, whether or not the events of 'One Bad Day' are canon in the broader DC Universe as we know it. 

Seeing as this is only the first one-shot in the event, one has to wonder, how much worse can it get for Bruce Wayne than to push him so far that he might willingly kill someone? Suddenly, the possibilities seem endless… and frightening.

Batman: One Bad Day – The Riddler #1 is available now.

Take a look at all the new Batman comics, graphic novels, and collections from DC in 2022 (and 2023).

Editor, Newsarama

Samantha Puc (she/they) is an editor at Newsarama and an avid comics fan. Their writing has been featured on Refinery29, Bitch Media, them., The Beat, The Mary Sue, and elsewhere. She is currently pursuing a Master of Fine Arts degree in creative nonfiction at The New School.