It’s the Year of the Villain. Again. We’ve had New Year’s Evil, we’ve had Underworld Unleashed, we’ve had lots of events focused on the bad guys… so here’s another. They must sell well, though you might want to get into the spirit of things and just nick ‘em. DC would surely approve, because they’re forever pushing the antagonists forward, fleshing them out, urging us to sympathise with them, or at least get on board with their wicked, wicked ways.
The man with the plan in the first story in this 25c special (OK, that is cheap, give the nice vendor your shekels) is Lex Luthor. He goes public as a supervillain during a visit to the White House he once occupied on an official basis.
Someone’s not going to be invited on Celebrity Apprentice any time soon. Anyway, Luthor and friends – the latest incarnation of the Legion of Doom – apparently face no super-powered resistance because the shaven-headed Satan is soon back in Metropolis. He gives newly bespectacled bodyguard Mercy Graves a suitably grave memo to cascade to staff…
… then tells Brainiac his cunning plan.
He’s going to give his fellow bad guys seed money! Yessiree, the superheroes won’t know what’s hit ’em. Mind, any villain with any sense will likely take their bag of moolah and bugger off to Aruba. After all, it’s not like DC foes are short of a bob or two, they’re forever showing up in bespoke outfits with cutting edge death rays. There has to be more to Lex’s plan – and apparently there is, as by the close of the story he’s liquified more than just his fortune.
This is a bit of a ho-hum short from writer Scott Snyder, just more of Lex Luthor and the LoD, currently overexposed in the fortnightly Justice League comic. It’s tough to get excited about what seems to be a re-run of Neron’s plan from Underworld Unleashed – offer the baddies a strings-attached upgrade – without the spooky candles. And while Luthor is recognisably Luthor, I can’t believe in a Brainiac this emotional, with his ‘My God’ and general acquiescing with Lex’s plans.
Pencilling and inking, Jim Cheung produces the strongest art I’ve seen since he began working with DC – good storytelling choices, strong emotions, sharp finishes – with one outstanding page, a pin-up of Batman’s current bad guys. He’s helped by Tomeu Morey, whose colours amp up the drama nicely. There is one thing I hate. The Cheetah… those pendulous breasts look really freaky on a human-cat. Still, it’s not Cheung’s design.
The second story looks even better, as Alex Maleev makes his DC debut. For ‘even better’, read ‘sensational’. I enjoyed Maleev’s work on Marvel’s street level heroes and I like his full-colour art on their DC equivalents even more – Batgirl and Green Arrow look amazing.
I love how the splash page logos are incorporated into the art. Extra points for de-emphasising/hiding Babs’ mask ears throughout so that her new costume looks a little less tacky. I also appreciate that his version of Merlin is reminiscent of TV’s John Barrowman without being a lookalike – the evil archer has been around a long time and doesn’t need an entirely new head.
Maleev also does a fine job when a decidedly non-street level element enters the story. His version of the being that’s been blowing up things over in Action Comics appears only as a vague presence, but a powerful one. And Lordy, does Maleev do a great Batcave.
There’s great dialogue from frequent collaborator and Action Ace Brian Michael Bendis.
Intriguing. Someone who knows as much about Batgirl as Leviathan – I assume this is Leviathan – would know that the only way she’s going to accept their offer is to spy on them. So what’s Leviathan’s real plan? Roll on the Event Leviathan 80pp giant later this month.
Chapter Three of the issue is a Justice League short, with the gang evacuating a world in the way of the Source Wall energy that’s EATING EVERYTHING IN ITS PATH and is TERRIFYING and UNSTOPPABLE and REALLY RATHER SLOW AS IT’S BEEN COMING TO GET US ALL FOR ABOUT A YEAR. Seriously, I’m sure anyone in the way of the thing could calmly step to one side.
While making a cocktail.
There are loads of good moments in the current Justice League book but the constant amping up of threats with no pay-off makes a guy long for a nice two-issue tussle with the Royal Flush Gang. The biggest threat to the heroes is being bored to death by all the exposition – at times Justice League reads less like a comic than a Mayfair Sourcebook. We get more here from writer James Tynion IV, who’s actually pretty blameless – he’s been tasked with grabbing readers who haven’t been following the Justice League comic so has to recap. And there’s a lot to tell.
And I do like Super Gorilla Grodd with baby Turtle Man or whoever that tot with the stupid ‘Still Force’ is.
The big Revelation here is that Ma Perpetua is growing herself a Lex Luthor, I do hope someone remembers that he should have hair, old Lex’s baldness being circumstantial rather than genetic. The big So What? is the news that the League will expand – hasn’t an Unlimited version of the team been around since the last big event, the one with the silly space trees? The big Please God No! is the teasing of a major role for the supremely tiresome Batman Who Laughs.
The full-colour art by Francis Manapul is almost edible, just lovely – with the exception of that Batman Who Bores page, which looks as if it’s been drawn by someone else.
This issue is meant to get me excited for DC’s numerous Year of the Villain stories and specials, with backmatter going into some detail. With the exception of Event Leviathan, it hasn’t. I’m already buying Justice League, for the odd cool moment and the Jorge Jimenez art, but I just want all the Source Wall/Dark Metal business to stop. It’s too convoluted, too self-consciously ‘epic’. DC’s cosmic history works when someone puts little bits of story from down the decades together, not when they present a massive wodge of ‘new’ background information.
The just-announced Batman/Superman book sounds truly horrible, with its ‘who are the Secret Six Agents of the Batman Who Bores?’ conceit and promise of ‘unspeakable horror for the DCU’. I will never buy a book starring the Batman Who Bores, he’s just the New 52 Joker’s Daughter in drag.
Batman #75 is touted as the one where ’the numerous and connected threads of writer Tom King’s Batman run begin to come together’ Begin? No thanks, I jumped off a while back due to the rambling storyline and extra-depressing presentation of the Caped Crusader.
The shred of hope comes from a podcast I listened to this week Wait, what? co-host Graeme, a proper professional comics journalist and everything, mentions that he’s talked to lots of people involved in Year of the Villain and they know we’re expecting Year of the Same Old, Same Old. Apparently there will be zags where we expect zigs. I love a good zag. Certainly we need something more interesting than the supposedly amped-up villains in the backmatter here. Bizarro with CHAINS! Solomon Grundy with blood nod his shirt and HIS BRAIN SHOWING! HORRIFIC TERRIFICS! And Mirror Master wearing a TELESCOPIC SHAVING MIRROR.
Give me a break.
So, this is a very well-crafted comic, but it doesn’t have me hugely excited. I’d rather each title went its own way than bowed before one massive storyline. The big news for me is the arrival of Maleev. How about you?