Riddle me this, when is a villain actually a hero? When it's in their own head.

Everyone is the hero of their own narrative. Once you understand that proverb, you begin to understand your enemies. Think about any antagonists you might have in your own life, whether they’re workplace rivals, troublesome neighbors, or the driver who cut you off during rush hour. Each of them may seem like an antagonist in your story, but in their mind, they’re the hero.

The Riddler: Year One plays with this concept as it details Edward Nashton’s backstory. That’s right, for anyone unfamiliar with this now completed series, we’re talking about Edward Nashton—the Riddler— from Matt Reeves’ 2022 film The Batman. Not only is this prequel comic canon to the movie, but it’s also written by Paul Dano, the actor who portrayed the Riddler in the film. Dano came up with some backstory ideas while he was filming The Batman and Reeves helped him develop them into what ultimately became this comic book.

The Riddler: Year One serves as a wonderful companion piece to the 2022 film and helps to build out Reeves’ quickly growing universe. (Look for The Batman’s second spinoff project, a Max live action series based on Colin Farrell’s Penguin, to hit screens sometime next year.) If you recall, The Batman had a third act twist where we learned that the Riddler viewed Batman as an ally, not an enemy. Throughout the entire film, Nashton believed he was on the same page as Batman, while the Dark Knight believed he was hunting for a murderer who was purposely antagonizing him.

This is where The Riddler: Year One comes in. Instead of looking at Gotham through Bruce’s eyes, the Black Label comic gives us Edward’s perspective. Like the Reeves film, the comic plays with the concept of perception. The book is a villain’s origin story, but from Edward’s perspective, he believes he’s in the middle of a heroic origin story.

Admittedly, it’s hard not to feel sorry for Edward in The Riddler: Year One. We see the future serial killer as a young orphan, forgotten by society. His peers at the orphanage bully Edward, and his adult caretakers aren’t much better. Cruelty seems to be a fact of life, with nobody stepping up to nurture the boy.

One of the most heartbreaking scenes happens in issue #4. During a flashback to Edward’s childhood, we see Thomas Wayne visit the orphanage to announce his plans for the Gotham Renewal Program. After his speech, Thomas approaches young Edward, asking him about his hobbies and his goals for the future. This is probably the first time anyone has ever given the boy this much positive attention. Edward lights up as he tells Wayne about his love for math and the excitement he now has for the future.

This is one of the few times in the book where Edward smiles, and it’s positively heartbreaking. As readers, we know what became of Thomas Wayne, and we know that the Gotham Renewal Program was never used to help the city’s impoverished population. We know all this, but we see young Edward smiling with so much hope for what’s ahead. It’s the first time in his young life that he’s ever been so excited about what’s coming, only to be met with disappointment yet again.

One thing that definitely doesn’t disappoint is Stevan Subic’s artwork. The talented artist does a phenomenal job illustrating Nashton’s shattered psyche as he descends into madness. Subic does more than pencil each page, he uses each panel to communicate Edward’s inner turmoil. We’re seeing the world through Edward’s eyes and it’s not pretty. Gotham and its people look twisted because that’s how Edward sees them. As the Riddler’s sanity deteriorates, the art evolves. By the time you get to issue #5, every anchor to reality is gone. The first part of the chapter is primarily told through Nashton’s journals, and there are no boundaries. The art and the text shift in different styles from page to page. Edward’s writing goes from vertical to horizontal, and at times goes in circles. It’s a true roller coaster of a reading experience.

Nashton starts to see himself as a hero as he uncovers the corruption in the Gotham Renewal Fund. As he digs deeper, he discovers how deeply the mob is tied to the charity and even his own workplace. We see the Riddler target these mobsters and even help liberate an innocent woman who has been caught in their web. Combating mobsters and saving lives? It almost feels like the Riddler is a hero.

But that’s because this is his narrative. The Riddler: Year One doesn’t try to justify the murders Nashton commits. The story doesn’t deceive us by painting Edward as something he isn’t. Readers will see how radicalized he has become and there’s no mistaking that he is a villain. However, since the book is from his perspective, we get a solid understand of how he views his journey and what drives him to become the masked killer he becomes.

At the end of the day, The Riddler: Year One is a comic book that entertains us while it challenges our perspective. It changes how you see the character at its heart. And much like the film it spins out of, it gets under your skin and isn’t soon forgotten. It’s a perfect gift for fans of the movie who are eager for more from Reeves’ world, or anyone fascinated by the darker side of humanity. But more than anything, it’s proof that in this shockingly relatable version of Gotham City, Batman has his work cut out for him.

The Riddler: Year One by Paul Dano and Stevan Subic is now available in print as a hardcover graphic novel. It can also be read in full on DC UNIVERSE INFINITE.

Joshua Lapin-Bertone writes about TV, movies and comics for DC.com, is a regular contributor to the Couch Club and writes our monthly Batman column, "Gotham Gazette." Follow him on Twitter at @TBUJosh.

NOTE: The views and opinions expressed in this feature are solely those of Joshua Lapin-Bertone and do not necessarily reflect those of DC Entertainment or Warner Bros., nor should they be read as confirmation or denial of future DC plans.