The Batman pits the burgeoning detective skills of Robert Pattinson's unfledged Bruce Wayne against the question mark that is Paul Dano's Riddler, a serial killer resembling the rebooted version of the character appearing in Batman: Earth One Vol. 2. The 2015 original graphic novel from Geoff Johns and Gary Frank reimagines the clue-obsessed Bat-villain as an enigmatic anarchist and serial bomber, who terrorizes crime-infested Gotham City with a series of deadly riddles six months after the Batman's first appearance. An egomaniac whose most dangerous weapon is the criminal genius he uses to challenge Batman, this Riddler becomes increasingly unhinged when he's outsmarted and out-maneuvered by the Dark Knight detective.
Both The Batman and Batman: Earth One are reboots taking place outside mainstream DC Comics continuity, both following an early-days caped crusader. Reeves' Batman is in his second year as a costumed crime-fighter when he investigates a series of slayings committed by a masked madman resembling the Zodiac Killer, who leaves behind a bloody crime scene when he kills Gotham City Mayor Don Mitchell.
Labeling Mitchell a "liar" in blood, this Riddler continues his vendetta against his victim when he turns a hostage into a suicide bomber at the mayor's funeral. He then broadcasts a riddle likely targeted at Batman: "If you are justice, please do not lie… what is the price for your blind eye?"
The Riddler communicates with his victims via short-range radio when carrying out his attacks in Batman: Earth One Vol. 2, a gimmick that places him near the scene of his crimes. The villain kills an elevator full of people, detonates an explosion at an art museum, and triggers a bomb on the subway, claiming 43 souls in all — attacks that only appear to be random acts of violence committed by a lunatic.
Batman comes to learn these mass killings are cover-ups meant to disguise the Riddler's true targets: the associates of corrupt Gotham City Mayor Oswald Cobblepot, whose criminal dealings were exposed by Batman. On that list is Sal Maroni, a member of the Maroni crime family, who receives a nod in The Batman trailer in the form of a blood-splattered newspaper displayed on Mitchell's wall.
In The Batman, Colin Farrell's Cobblepot appears to be a shot-calling criminal instead of a mayoral candidate. It's not clear if Dano's Riddler has ties to the Penguin or Zoë Kravitz's opportunistic cat burglar Selina Kyle — who we see helping herself to the contents of Mitchell's safe — but all three members of the rogue's gallery are in the earliest stages of their criminal careers by the time of The Batman.
According to Reeves, The Batman is not an adaptation of influential origin tale Batman: Year One or any particular Batman comic book. Describing his reboot as a noir-driven detective story, Reeves said in 2019, "I went on a deep dive again revisiting all my favorite comics. Those all inform by osmosis."
"There's no continuation of the [Christopher] Nolan films," he added. "It's very much trying to find a way to do this as something that for me is going to be definitively Batman and new and cool."
The Batman releases on October 1, 2021.