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    “DC’s Year of the Villain Special” #1

    By | May 2nd, 2019
    Posted in Reviews | % Comments

    In this issue, everything gets teased.

    Written by Scotty Snyder, James Tynion IV, Brian Michael Bendis
    Art by Jim Cheung, Alex Maleev, Francis Manapul

    Evil is winning! Lex Luthor and The Legion of Doom conspire with Cosmic Gods, bending mankind toward a dark destiny. Elsewhere, the scourge of Leviathan spreads unchecked, seizing power in every corner of the world. And all the while the Batman Who Laughs busies himself in the shadows, aligned with no one-yet with sinister plans for all.

    The carnage starts here as the bad guys take center stage in “The Year of the Villain,” the most treacherous event in DC Comics history. Some act with united goals, others with plans selfish and secret, every one of them on a monstrous collision course against Batman, Superman and the heroes of the DC Universe. And our heroes will fail us.

    Don’t miss the start of “The Year of the Villain,” featuring the talents of writers Brian Michael Bendis, Scott Snyder and James Tynion IV, artists Jim Cheung, Alex Maleev and Francis Manapul and cover artist Greg Capullo-all for free!

    I would not call “DC’s Year of the Villain Special” #1 a traditional comic book. Technically it features a series of sequential art from a variety of talents in 8 page strips and is DC’s not-quite-free comic book day offering. However, with back matter consisting of check lists, timelines, and magazine-like features, it is something else. This anthology book is a teasing statement of purpose for DC’s mainline of comics for the next year or so. To create reader buy in and equip them with the necessary info to navigate the direct markets long distribution process. “Year of the Villain” is a series of teaser trailers, making considering it’s ability to tease and entice a bit more relevant than quality comic book craftmanship.

    I’ve waffled back and forth on the stylistic choice of using omniscient narration in “Justice League.” Like all things it depends on how it is used, the Justice League strips in “Year of the Villain” provides a nice example of what makes it both effective and ineffective. In the first strip it efficiently tells a reader who doesn’t know anything about Amanda Waller everything they need to know about her in a single page.

    Supers in the White House is never a good thing it mixes civilian and vigilante powers. While the X-Men visited the White House at the end of X-2 in the search of peace and understanding the means they used also legitimized the fear of them. In the animated Justice League series it led to the Justice Lords. So when Lex Luthor and the Legion of Doom show up, you know it’s going to nefarious.

    Of the plotting that is done to tease the reader in these pages, it’s the sheer confidence and zealotry Luthor has in his plan that is the most gripping. The art is a little stiff and has a choppy flow at times from Jim Cheung, but as it releates to capturing Luthor’s confidence it is brilliant. Teasing readers with this new side of Luthor was a smart move.

    Sandwiched in between two chapters in Scott Snyder’s “Justice League” epic is our first look at the forthcoming anti-Event, “Event Leviathan” from Brian Michael Bendis and Alex Maleev. While the duo have worked together for years, this latest partnership puts their DC page count to only 17 meaning there’s lots of novelty to just seeing them – in particular Maleev – work with these characters. In this case this prelude to “Leviathan” is team up between Green Arrow and Batgirl as they question Malcolm Merlyn. Merlyn has decided to cash out on his criminal empire and fearing for his life. He claims a “royal flush” is going on, someone is taking out the various organizations of DC.

    Of all the strips this reads as the most whole as a narrative unit. It dosen’t move with the quickness or density of a “2000 A.D.” prog – see a pair of 3 panel pages – but it follows a similar structure. The first couple of pages are setup, there’s a bit of progress, and a couple of twists. Both of the “League” strips play at such a large scale it’s hard to find the humanity in them, here we primarily have three people talking it out on a Seattle rooftop.

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    Maleev gives the Seattle skyline this eerie greener turquoise. That color gives everything the right amount of luminescence while still reading as distinctly night time. The strip isn’t overtly neo noir, but the color palette gives it that texture and helps to set reader expectations of what to expect from “Event Leviathan.”

    Bendis also manages to end things on an effective stinger. Other moments in the “League” strips are intriguing or shocking, but Damian’s theory on who that new red hooded leader of Leviathan is calibrated to get the internet abuzz with anger and discussion in a way the other strips don’t.

    The final “Justice League” strip featuring the art of Francis Manapul this time, is the least effective of the bunch. Manapul’s art is excellent with the use of unnatural colors fitting for the cosmic nature of the League’s mission and all that Multiverse ending Perpetua business. It just lacks a sense of tension the way the others did. It quickly builds a context for the readers but is also over in 5 pages, there’s only so much you can do and tease the climatic ‘Doom War’ arc. It does give Manapul a chance to go big in a spread that will surely be someone’s wallpaper very quickly.

    Where things fall apart from ineffective to poor is in the strips final Perpetua centric pages. They lack impact due to their design and lettering. Perpetua breaks out of her cage, which should feel like a monumental momen. It’s a sequence that is done in four panels and takes up two thirds of a page. The lack of size fails to work synergistically with omniscient narration that accompanies it. As the narrator goes on about the return to power, new life, and all of her evil plans, the visual aspect lacks that sense of majesty.
    These final three pages aren’t the most dense but lack an engaging flow as the creative team just throw images at the reader. When the Batman Who Laughs is given a page all to himself, most of which is a 2/3 single image, it’s hard to see the point. The image itself looks fine, and physically isolates him from the rest of the Legion but doesn’t read like a good use of page real-estate considering everything.

    Of all the strips this was the least effective at enticing me with what is to come.

    Much like the final battle in Avengers: Endgame, the back matter with its time lines and check lists kind of made my eyes want to glaze over. Like the film it is technically well done and a respectable job. With Luthor’s offer going out to the worlds villians soon, having a check list for who and what issue is handy. With the limited marketing that goes into selling floppies to new customers this is likely the best marketing for this whole endeavor will receive. The backmatter does its job, telling you what to get or to avoid as DC enters the Year of the Villain … nearly half way through the year.

    Final Verdict: 7.5 – All the strips aren’t great, but the overall package does its job well enough. It has teased me with what is to come in the world of DC.

    Michael Mazzacane

    Your Friendly Neighborhood Media & Cultural Studies-Man Twitter