DC Comics’ Villains Month is upon us. We’ve read for months about the 3D covers and DC’s financing woes, but what really matters is the content. Each issue this month deals with the background story of a DC Universe villain. So what is worth checking out and what should be passed up?
This one-shot takes a previously established villain from the DC Universe and gives him a completely new origin. Instead of being a revenge-bent scientist, Nelson builds a backstory that involves the ruin of Krypton and the wicked machinations of Brainiac. This setup provides intrigue for what role this villain will play in the DC Universe following Forever Evil.
Hawthorne’s art compliments Nelson’s intriguing story very well. While the segments set in the past may seem quickly drawn, the detail involved in constructing Cyborg Superman makes up for it. Through careful detail, Hawthorne makes this villain seem as imposing as the real Superman.
While it may seem like everything about Joker has been done, Andy Kubert finds a way to present a glimpse of Joker’s childhood without feeling like old material. Many may not like this issue because it is slightly clichéd in how it blames an adult for making Joker the way he his. Joker’s transference of his weird, sadistic form of love onto his minion, however, provides a saving grace to the cliché. Andy Clarke’s art is enough to save this issue, if the story doesn’t make the cut. His shadowy, jagged pencils make Joker’s attitudes pop of the page.
Gail Simone has a tough task in front of her–take a well established Batman villain and completely change the character. Many Batman fans know the Ventriloquist as Arnold Wesker and his puppet, Scarface. Simone, however, has turned the character upside down.
The issue, like most of the others, moves from the past to the present fairly effortless as readers are taken through the transformation of Shaunna Belzer into a psychotic serial killer. Another similarity this issue shares is that Shaunna’s motivations stem from family issues.
Derlis Santacruz and Karl Kesel combine on the artistic side to create an atmosphere of violence and horror. The atmosphere conveyed through Santacruz’s crisp detail and Kesel’s cartoonish coloring is appropriate for the story and helps emphasize the creepiness that Simone struggles to maintain within the story.
Tomasi’s Two-Face story is sadly familiar. Harvey Dent flips a coin and decides the fate of Gotham. Harvey Dent holds court over wrong-doers from his past. The only new material added to Dent’s development is that he doesn’t like how the Crime Syndicate doesn’t subscribe to his form of justice.
If there’s any reason to pick up this issue it is the artwork. March’s style is perfect for Two-Face as it captures the fine line between justice and murder that has always surrounded Two-Face.
Fridolfs’s combination of Gotham’s descent into chaos without Batman and the chaos surrounding Poison Ivy’s childhood makes for a decent story. However, much like the Joker one-shot, some may find the childhood trauma used to stoke the fire for vengeance angle a bit stale. Fridolfs also spends a small amount of time basically summarizing where Poison Ivy has been as a villain. This feels more like filler than actual development.
Pena and Kalisz do an amazing job of switching between the present and past. The scenes of Poison Ivy’s childhood, while traumatic, are done with bright pastels and simple detail to convey the loss of innocence. As the story moves into the present the artists maintain a dark, shadowy tone that seems right for Poison Ivy.
Levitz’s story is fairly predictable as he constructs less of an origin for Desaad in favor of a what’s-he-up-to-now story. Desaad’s horrific power and motivations are made clear, but there’s never really any forward momentum to grab the reader’s attention for the future. Desaad’s movement through the human populace is well done as one feels the horrific impact he has on those around him, but that is mainly due to Cinar’s excellent art. It is Cinar’s attention to the atmosphere through careful detail that portrays the true nature of Desaad.
Ken Lashly’s and Jason Wright’s cover for this issue is definitely an attractive component as it really pops with the 3D motion gimmick. It is unfortunate that such a well drawn book has such a uninspiring story.
This is one of the few issues that ties into the continuity of the main title very well, while still providing interesting background on the character. Buccellato does an excellent job of maintaining how Grodd has changed as a villain, yet how he is still the same human hating, egotist bent on domination. Fans of the Flash title should enjoy the portrayal of Grodd’s intellect and savagery.
As an added bonus Buccellato’s one-shot clearly entices the reader to catch up on the story lines he and Francis Manapul have established in the New 52, as well as the Forever Evil story line.
Batista, Nguyen, and Dzioba combine together to help emphasize the sheer force behind Grodd’s strength and mental prowess. To highlight this there is a captivating full page splash of Grodd’s fighting and dominating a large group of apes led by Solovar.
This is the one issue out of all the one-shots from this week that actually connects directly into the ongoing story in the main title. Venditti takes the uncovering of Relic directly from the pages of his Green Lantern titles and moves backwards to provide the villain with a well-conceived origin.
As is expected when Rags Morales is involved in any issue, the art is excellent. It is Dahlhouse’s coloring, however, that makes this one shot stand out from all the rest. The colors he employs captures each and every moment, from the very first page where a psychedelic blend of color bursts from the cosmos to the last page with exquisite emotion.
While the opportunity for new authors and artists to develop villains is a key element to Villains Month, Jeff Lemire proves with the Count Vertigo one-shot why well-established creators are just as integral to the success of these issues.
Lemire conveys the intense emotion and psychopathic motivations of Count Vertigo in a way that is perfectly blended with Sorrentino’s art and Maiolo’s coloring. Reader’s will find themselves poring over each frame of the issue as Sorrentino’s minute detail is emphasized by the eerily violent tone instilled by the background coloring.
JUSTICE LEAGUE DARK #23.1: THE CREEPER/ Story by DAN DIDIO/ Written by ANN NOCENTI/ Art by CHRIS CROSS, FABRIZIO FIORENTINO, & TOM DERENICK/ Inks by WAYNE FAUCHER, ANDY OWENS, & TOM DERENICK/ Colors by ULISES ARREOLA, KYLE RITTER, & PETE PANTAZIS/ Letters by TRAVIS LANHAM
Here’s an example of where the villains one-shots can be utterly confusing. The Creeper is a Japanese demon that was trapped in Katana’s sword for thousands of years. Where many of the other issues this week excel at placing the villains within continuity, Didio and Nocenti seem to be unconcerned with that. Past story lines from Katana and Phantom Stranger are briefly mentioned but no connection to the cast of Justice League Dark is made. It’s confusing to structure this issue in such a way since it would make more sense as a Justice League of America title.
Plotting aside, the overall story is also uninteresting. The Creeper gets a brief background and then runs amok amongst present day civilians. Nothing of any real importance seems to happen that could have lasting effects, and it definitely does not make the character seem important enough to develop any further.
The one upside to this issue is that the 3D cover is probably one of the best from the week. The way the chains seem to pop off the page around a tortured Constantine make the intrigue that is sorely missing from the story seem deceptively present.
This is an issue that takes a character and presents a straightforward origin story without any real connection to a previous or future storyline. Pak’s story basically summarizes what has already been written about Darkseid, which is a little disappointing. It is, however, well written and conveys the emotion surrounding Uxas transformation into the Lord of Apokolips.
The art is well done and extremely detailed throughout the issue, as well. However, the lack of original development makes this one-shot less interesting than many of the others.
Matt Kindt’s coming of age tale for Deadshot is very interesting. This month is all about villains, right? Kindt, however, blends selfless, heroic qualities into Deadshot’s lack of concern for human life. This development clearly connects to the story that has been built by the authors of Suicide Squad, while still creating an air of mystery around Deadshot.
There are a lot of artists for this issue, which seems a little chaotic. The upside is that the different artistic styles are used to transition between the past and the present, which enhance the emotion within Deadshot’s back-story.
Sholly Fisch’s one-shot about Superman’s confused, misunderstood, backwards talking clone, Bizarro, actually develops the motivations of Lex Luthor more than it does an origin for Bizarro. The story takes place after Superman escapes the government facility where he was being held in the first few issues of Action Comics.
In choosing this time frame, Fisch makes the story fit very neatly into the New 52’s Superman continuity. There’s a great sense that what happens in this issue will have future ramifications for Superman.