Two new issues from the fantastic Mark Russell highlights the more sarcastic side of the superhero – and villain – set.

The Riddler: Year of the Villain 1
Written by Mark Russell
Pencils and Inks by Scott Godlewski
Colors by Marissa Louise

While most other villains have received some sort of boon from the new Apex Predator Lex Luthor, Edward Nygma has been left out of Luthor’s reindeer games. The slight is really bothering him. Why doesn’t he rate?

The Riddler vents his frustrations to King Tut, of all people, who offers to team up with Riddler to take down Batman. But an actual conversation with Luthor – who is gathering his forces throughout the DC Universe to take down the Justice League and put doom in control – makes Riddler think twice about what he’s doing. Luthor can be a bit of a dick, after all.

So Edward Nygma decides to ditch the Riddler gimmick, which Luthor calls child-like, right in the middle of a caper with King Tut, as the Egyptian-themed villain calls on him to help him when Batman shows up, leaving everyone confused. But what will Nygma do next? If Luthor was pushing him to be more dangerous, to push his agenda further, he seems to have motivated Nygma to do something else with his life.

This is a pretty significant change to the status quo of a classic Batman villain, making this a pretty important issue whenever Nygma reappears with a new role. Writer Mark Russell does a great job expressing Nygma’s desperation at being a part of Luthor’s plans, along with his distaste for his current station. Russell is really great with these Year of the Villain stories.

Wonder Twins 7
Written by Mark Russell
Art by Stephen Byrne

Now that this series has been extended to a 12-issue series from the original six, Russell has the chance to explore Zan and Jayna’s world a little bit more, moving beyond villains like the Scrambler and the League of Annoyance. Instead, the Wonder Twins have to battle a sense of ennui. Defeating the League was the only thing the Justice League had on the agenda for the young aliens, and now that the twins have accomplished that goal, everyone is a little lost when it comes to giving them a job.

Sure, Zan is dealing with things better than Jayna, who helped put her best friend in prison, but Zan is pretty good proof that ignorance is bliss.

The angst over their station in life is anything but superhuman, but most teens probably don’t have to worry about accidentally revealing that a meteor is hurtling toward Earth to a Hall of Justice tour group. When the twins are tasked with reeling in a riot, they also have to help a hero called Repulso, who emits a severe odor that the Justice League uses to dispel unruly crowds.

Repulso may be my favorite new character of the year so far. He just wants a friend. And after Jayna speaks with Superman not only about how she’s feeling, but about the nature of being a superhero, it seems like he may have one.

I love how Russell mixes some absurd plot lines – that are so perfectly in tune with the crazy comic book continuity we read week-in and week-out – with some poignant storytelling with a message. I’m glad I have an extra six months worth of stories about the twins.