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    The DC3: Villains Month Week Two Round Up

    By , and | September 13th, 2013
    Posted in Reviews | % Comments

    While all of us at Multiversity are fans of a wide spectrum of comics, there are a few of us that tend to self-identify as “DC guys.” We’ve cried for justice; we’ve been through the blackest nights and the brightest days. And now, we’ve been culled together for a new column to focus on some of the bigger goings on in the world of Detective Comics Comics. If you’re wondering who is going to stand up and discuss what is happening at DC – don’t worry:

    This month, the DC3 will be looking at each and every book DC releases that ties into Villains Month, and grading them on a three point scale: H’el-ish means bad, Two-Faced means so-so, or Killer (Croc) means great! And be warned, there are some minor spoilers discussed.

    Action Comics #23.2 – Zod
    Written by Greg Pak
    Illustrated by Ken Lashley

    Zach’s Thoughts: I’m a little torn on “Zod.” On one hand, I really appreciate what Pak is trying to do. He creates a new set of motives for the well worn Superman villain, one that isn’t just a warmed over repackage of Man of Steel. That said, I prefer the more traditional Zod origin. A common problem of the New 52 is unnecessary origin tweaking, just for the sake of being “new and different.” If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Still, there’s nothing particularly bad about this issue, and I’d love to see Pak do more with the character, either in “Batman/Superman” or “Action Comics.”

    Verdict: Two-Faced

    Is this better than the average issue of “Action Comics?” – Better than the recent issues, yes.

    Brian’s Thoughts: Greg Pak knows how to write comics, you guys. In other hands, this would’ve been another reductive, parent-blaming villain origin. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think this is a great comic, but Pak and Ken Lashley combine to tell a story that is consistent with the Krypton that has been presented in the New 52, and they manage to add some new elements to the mythos without obviously shitting all over someone else’s work.

    Verdict: Two-Faced

    Is this better than the average issue of “Action Comics?” – Yes, and it bodes well for Pak’s upcoming run on the book

    Vince’s Thoughts: Pak gives Zod a thoroughly modern backstory. By that I mean, it’s practically plucked from the post-9/11 headlines of world politics. I understand and agree with what Zach means when he says that it seems like DC is changing bits and pieces of origins just to change them – a point that I agree on for many of the other Villains Month titles. I trust that Pak has a thematic and modern reason for doing so with Zod, however. Pak is doing the thing he does best by taking core elements of his characters (Zod, Jor-El, Zor-El) and clashing them with one another. I think if he ever gets an opportunity to explore more of the politics and science of Kyrpton, then “Zod” will prove to be important groundwork. For right now, it’s just a damn entertaining issue. It was nice to see characters just mingling about in the “Krypton revelry” scenes – these Superman legacy characters so rarely get a chance to breathe. Ken Lashley’s representation of Krypton is wholly welcome (though did anyone else think it started to fall apart in the last couple pages?).

    Verdict: Killer (Croc)

    Is this better than the average issue of “Action Comics?” – Yes, which means that it should be in fine hands once Greg Pak’s run begins.

    Aquaman #23.1 – Black Manta
    Written by Geoff Johns and Tony Bedard
    Illustrated by Claude St. Aubin

    Zach’s Thoughts: This is pretty much what I want from from a Villain’s Month book. Coming from Geoff Johns, “Black Manta” is heavily tied to “Forever Evil,” focusing on the character’s reactions to the events of that series, rather than his origins. The issue makes great use of the “Forever Evil” status quo, touching on things like the consequences of Ultraman’s “lunar relocation” and the effects Aquaman’s disappearance on Manta’s state of mind. Claude St. Aubin’s art isn’t mind blowing, but isn’t far off from regular artist Paul Pelletier’s style. All in, if you enjoy Geoff John’s work, or want a richer reading experience in “Forever Evil,” you can’t really go wrong with this issue.

    Continued below

    Verdict: Killer (Croc)

    Is this better than the average issue of “Aquaman?” – A hair better than usual.

    Brian’s Thoughts: Take note, folks – this is how you do a Villain-centric issue. His origin is clearly presented in ONE PANEL, followed by some really well done, simple and effective character development. It ties into “Forever Evil,” but doesn’t feel like you must have read both books to fully understand it. Johns and Bedard do a great job setting up Manta for a big place in this crossover, and St. Aubin’s art is crisp and detailed.

    Verdict: Killer (Croc)

    Is this better than the average issue of “Aquaman?” – Yes – this is the least decompressed issue with the name “Aquaman” on the front yet.

    Vince’s Thoughts: There’s not much meat to this one, but it accomplishes some stuff that no other villain title has to this point. While I’m sure this’ll be covered in “Forever Evil”, it reveals that Black Manta will be one of the primary movers and shakers in the villains’ war against the Crime Syndicate of Earth 3. I love how coldly Black Manta descended into the water, away from the gathering of the Secret Society, his mission to destroy Aquaman having been taken from him in an instant. With a top creative team and an important role in the “Forever Evil” status quo, “Black Manta” is another one of the few September titles that actually feels like it needed to be here.

    Verdict: Killer (Croc)

    Is this better than the average issue of “Aquaman?” – Yes.

    Batman #23.2 – The Riddler
    Written by Scott Synder and Ray Fawkes
    Illustrated by Jeremy Haun

    Zach’s Thoughts: This issue follows the trend set by “Black Manta” of focusing on the void the missing Justice League members have left in the lives of their respective villains. It’s an interesting angle that almost always leads to a more engaging read than your typical tragic origin. Ray Fawkes’s contribution to Snyder’s usual high caliber story-telling results in a fascinating look at Edward Nygma. The team makes smart use of the villain’s trademark riddles, a defining feature that is surprisingly difficult to use effectively. Haun’s art is clean and technically strong.

    Verdict: Killer (Croc)

    Is this better than the average issue of “Batman?” – Definitely on par.

    Brian’s Thoughts: I think the Bat-villains are going to do pretty well in Villain’s Month because so many of their origins are either a) already told in the New 52, or b) simple and easy to recap in a few pages. This issue is about as good as a standalone, Batman-absent, Riddler story can be (at least playing him as a villain – his brief heroic turn a few years ago remains the most interesting thing ever done with him). Haun’s art is crisp and detailed, and Fawkes writes a script that is on par with what this book usually is. There isn’t anything more to really say about this issue – it is solid storytelling, and a pleasant read. My only real critique is that it makes Nygma perhaps a little too cold and violent but hey, this is the New 52, isn’t that sort of the point?

    Verdict: Killer (Croc)

    Is this better than the average issue of “Batman?” – On par, I’d say. Haun is no Capullo, but his style fits this story like a purple glove.

    Vince’s Thoughts: This could be one of the best uses of the Riddler that I’ve ever seen in any medium. Snyder & Fawkes manage to incorporate plenty of Nygma’s character-defining riddles in a way that isn’t goofy or labored. The writers play The Riddler as a smooth, clever imp – with a hidden disturbed side. There’s plenty going on under the surface, but it’s just as fun to watch Nygma slickly slip through Wayne Enterprises’ security systems. Snyder’s Riddler is a cold reinvention that manages to be as joyful as it is sinister, which makes it one of the real ‘New 52’ modernizations that truly improves or optimizes aspects of the character.

    Verdict: Killer (Croc)

    Continued below

    Is this better than the average issue of “Batman?” – The same high quality we expect from Snyder, but perhaps the best issue since “Zero Year” started.

    Batman and Robin #23.2 – The Court of Owls
    Written by James Tynion IV
    Illustrated by Jorge Lucas

    Zach’s Thoughts: I liked this issue more than I expected to. However you feel about Snyder’s Batman, the Court of Owls is probably the most successful addition to the DCU in the New 52. Tynion gives a solid recap of the group’s history and uses the “Forever Evil” status quo in an interesting way. The court definitely comes across as a League of Assassins clone, which will be interesting, consider Tynion is tackling that group as well. Lucas’ art is suitably unsettling considering the subject matter.

    Verdict: Two-Faced

    Is this better than the average issue of “Batman and Robin?” – Not quite.

    Brian’s Thoughts: Except for the final two pages, which reveal a threat to be explored in “Talon,” there is absolutely nothing new here. And this isn’t a villain’s origin from long ago being touched up – the Court of Owls is a New 52 creation. This is a retelling of an origin from less than 2 years ago. Tynion and Lucas do a fine job with what they’re called upon to do, but what they’re called upon to do is to retreat a fairly simple and recent tale.

    Verdict: Two-Faced

    Is this better than the average issue of “Batman and Robin?” – No, but better than “Talon”

    Vince’s Thoughts: Jorge Lucas’ art is the star in this one. Lucas captures the creepy moments and establishes the Court of Owls as a shadow organization that truly operates swiftly and in the shadows. He has a fine sense of history, as he’s asked to detail a number of different eras of the Court’s reign over Gotham City. Tynion is the resident owner of the status quo for the Court of Owls, so he fits right in here. The story is a little dry at times and doesn’t do much beyond re-establish the history of the Court (which has already been established pretty recently) and set up the next arc in “Talon.” It’s a fine issue, but there’s no reason to go out of your way for it, if you’re not following Tynion’s series.

    Verdict: Two-Faced

    Is this better than the average issue of “Batman and Robin?” – It’s about the same.

    Batman: The Dark Knight #23.3 – Mr. Freeze
    Written by Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray
    Illustrated by Jason Masters

    Zach’s Thoughts: First off, I completely respect Justin Gray and Jimmy Palmiotti. The writing duo have consistently produced some of the most underrated content at DC over the past few years, from their work with Jonah Hex to the Freedom Fighter characters. My estimation of this issue has little to do with their capability to tell a compelling story, which they have made an admirable effort to do. On a positive note, Jason Masters, who I know only from his work on “Batman Incorporated,” turns in some terrific work. The way he uses Freeze’s iconic red goggles is a particularly nice touch. I just don’t like the new take on Freeze. However, this is another case of change for change’s sake. The new “preservation” obsessed Freeze just doesn’t compare to the tried and true “Heart of Ice” version.

    Verdict: H’el-ish

    Is this better than the average issue of “Batman: The Dark Knight?” – I’m honestly not up on Dark Knight to say either way.

    Brian’s Thoughts: Mr. Freeze in the New 52 has been a bit of a surprise. Granted, they stole his most interesting/sympathetic characteristic from him (his sick wife, frozen, for whom he was looking for a cure is now not his wife, and he’s deranged and obsessed with this frozen woman), but the stories have been pretty solid. This continues the trend. Palmiotti and Gray write so much that it can be hard to truly appreciate their craft. Here, they do a very good version of the New 52 Freeze, and Jason Masters, a new name to me, does a fine job with the story as well. All I can ask DC for is to pair good creative teams with characters that fit them, and to let the creators do what they do best. They appear to have done that here.

    Continued below

    Verdict: Killer (Croc)

    Is this better than the average issue of “Batman: The Dark Knight?” – Yes.

    Vince’s Thoughts: On the one hand, some aspects of the Mr. Freeze character are nailed by Palmiotti & Gray, and it makes for some seriously chilling scenes. I’m thinking of the final scene in particular, which illustrates just how truly misplaced Freeze’s feelings are post-tragedy. On the other hand, I still question the decision to alter Freeze’s incredibly touching and elegant origin story with regards to Nora’s identity. It took away the thing that made Freeze truly tragic when compared to other villains that had negative transformative moments in their life. Jason Masters’ terrific work is also worth mentioning here. Again, he captures the “chilling” nature of Mr. Freeze, which is not just a bad pun but a requirement for drawing stories with the character.

    Verdict: Two-Faced

    Is this better than the average issue of “Batman: The Dark Knight?” – Yes.

    Detective Comics #23.2 – Harley Quinn
    Written by Matt Kindt
    Illustrated by Neil Googe

    Zach’s Thoughts: Last week’s “Deadshot” issue had me really apprehensive for Kindt’s upcoming run on “Suicide Squad.” Thankfully, is effort here on “Harley Quinn” is a lot more promising. It definitely feels weird having Quinn rationally discussing her past life choices, but Kindt manages it well, positing that a piece of Harlene Quinzel still exists in this shattered individual. There’s a lot of “Mad Love” shining through here, which is definitely a good thing. Neil Googe’s art is a perfect fit for Harley, cartoony rather than grimly realistic. Seeing her assemble her New 52 look is a lot of fun, almost making up for the ridiculous get-up. The wanton death and destruction at the issue’s end is quite jarring. It’s almost as if Kindt had to add that section in order to keep Harley from becoming too likable or relatable. The reprisal of Deadshot’s “bullet” metaphor is a nice touch.

    Verdict: Killer (Croc)

    Is this better than the average issue of “Detective Comics?” – Yes.

    Brian’s Thoughts: Googe’s cartoony style is the perfect fit for a Harley Quinn origin. Kindt does a fine job here, building an origin that is familiar, concise, and easy to follow for new readers. Of course, it begs the question: did any Bat-fan not know Harley’s origin? This seems to be one of the least necessary origins, simply because Harley is her origin. Everything about her stems from her time meeting the Joker in Arkham – and if you read any book with her in it for more than 5 seconds, you get that.

    Verdict: Two-Faced

    Is this better than the average issue of “Detective Comics?” – About the same, or a bit better.

    Vince’s Thoughts: Character design aside, this is really the same Harley Quinn that we’ve always known. That character design, too, oscillates between good and bad depending on who is drawing the character. In the hands of Neil Googe, Harley’s look and the story’s tone is just right. Kindt wraps elements of ‘Mad Love’ into the ‘New 52’ origin, making this one of the new origins that hasn’t been messed with in any significant way. Even that maligned costume design is a crucial element of Harley’s character, as she attacks people with baseball bats and giant mallets for pieces of clothing she can mismatch to make her “look.” Since she’s not a part of the Joker’s “gang” yet, I like this take on her costume. Googe’s cartoony style reminds us that Harley’s goofier elements still remain part of her character.

    Verdict: Killer (Croc)

    Is this better than the average issue of “Detective Comics?” – Yes.

    Earth 2 #15.2 – Solomon Grundy
    Written by Matt Kindt
    Illustrated by Aaron Lopresti

    Zach’s Thoughts: On average, there’s not a lot of depth to these Villain’s Month books. Still, “Solomon Grundy” has to take the cake for shallowest issue so far. Grundy’s origin is about as uninspired and grimdark as you get, and the present day story amounts to “Grundy crash lands back on earth (without explanation) and kills things.” He’s like the Earth 2 version of Doomsday. Not a good issue.

    Continued below

    Verdict: H’el-ish

    Is this better than the average issue of “Earth 2?” – Not by a long shot.

    Brian’s Thoughts: This is such a disappointment, especially coming from a brain like Kindt. To be fair, this is the 486th book he’s written this month, so maybe he wasted all his good ideas on the prior 485 of them. This is a particularly irritating version of an origin, where you see physically how Grundy became the dead-rot man, but not how. Sure, he dies in a river full of other dead people – shouldn’t the Ganges then be churning out Grundy’s every few minutes then? Similarly frustrating is the fact that Grundy was last seen on the moon, and shows up here falling from the sky. Did he just jump off the moon, and happen to have the proper trajectory to Earth? This is lazy, boring, though well illustrated, and not worth your time or money at all. Plus, rape!

    Verdict: H’el-ish.

    Is this better than the average issue of “Earth 2?” – No.

    Vince’s Thoughts: DC tosses off another hilariously violent story in their month-long march on everyone’s innocence. I kid, but why does every book have to be like this? Rape, murder, suicide, lather, rinse, repeat. Remember when Kraven the Hunter killed himself and that was a huge deal? “Solomon Grundy” goes to the shock value well about a dozen times. I don’t think you feel anything for Solomon, either pre- or post-breaking point, because the issue is just bleak all of the way through. This is entirely too disposable and swift of an issue for the horrific images to have any sort of lasting impact.

    Verdict: H’el-ish

    Is this better than the average issue of “Earth 2?” – No.

    The Flash #23.2 – Reverse Flash
    Written by Francis Manapul and Brian Buccellato
    Illustrated by Scott Hepburn

    Zach’s Thoughts: This book is still gorgeous, even without Manapul’s contribution. Hepburn does a great job mimicking Manapul’s unique style and layouts. Conversely, the Reverse Flash’s new origin is all kinds of ridiculous. Also, the end of the issue is definitely setting up Reverse-Flashpoint, where everything goes back to normal, right?

    Verdict: Two-Faced

    Is this better than the average issue of “The Flash?” – On par.

    Brian’s Thoughts: Disappointment #1: No Manapul art, unlike what was solicited. Disappointment #2: More Daddy issues. Disappointment #3: Monorail powers? Disappointment #4: This guy will, one day, be Wally West’s dad in the New 52.

    Verdict: H’el-ish

    Is this better than the average issue of “The Flash?” – No sir.

    Vince’s Thoughts: You’ll have to forgive me, but I couldn’t stop thinking about quotes from ‘Marge vs. the Monorail’. “Reverse Flash” gives us another member of the West family that isn’t the one everybody wanted, a little bit of messing with the time stream, and another “bad dad” story so that, I guess, it makes sense that the villain would be a villain. “Reverse Flash” goes to great lengths to absolutely pour on the pain for Daniel West. But white-hot monorail metal, coffee cups to the head, and crickets are weird visual motifs to accompany this tragedy. Aside from some very superficial trappings like these, it’s tough to distinguish this from any other villain’s awful childhood. Naturally, “bad upbringing” stories are the easiest and most logical way to explain why someone became a sociopath, but making that the focus of an issue and throwing 52 of these together in one month is just not an optimal situation. Nevertheless, Scott Hepburn does a terrific Francis Manapul impression throughout – so much so that the story really doesn’t miss a beat. If you like “The New 52 Flash”, you should like this well enough.

    Verdict: Two-Faced

    Is this better than the average issue of “The Flash?” – It’s about the same.

    Green Lantern #23.2 – Mongul
    Written by Jim Starlin
    Illustrated by Howard Porter

    Zach’s Thoughts: This issue was pretty average all around. Howard Porter’s art is pretty great, but the plot is essentially non-existent. Starling does a great job of setting up Mongul as a formidable villain, but not at making him an interesting one.

    Continued below

    Verdict: H’el-ish

    Is this better than the average issue of “Green Lantern?” – No

    Brian’s Thoughts: Welcome to the exposition station! I’m your host, Jim Starlin. Let me walk you through an overly complicated origin for a character that really doesn’t need too much explaining. And now, over to Brian!

    Thanks, Jim. Howard Porter does his usual thing, and it looks real nice, if not overly crowded. Otherwise, nothing at all happens in this issue. A few panels in an upcoming Lantern book would have done exactly the same thing as this, for far less money, and with far less unnecessary words. Back to you, Jim.

    Verdict: H’el-ish

    Is this better than the average issue of “Green Lantern?” – No

    Vince’s Thoughts: “Mongul” was humorless, unrelenting, and hyper-violent. If that’s the sort of thing you want in a villain-centric comic, then this’ll be right up your alley. To me, it’s too indicative of the things that I dislike about what mainstream comic books have become. Cheers to Howard Porter for turning in some detailed and truly creepy work, but it’s just too much of the same for me.

    Verdict: H’el-ish

    Is this better than the average issue of “Green Lantern?” – No.

    Justice League #23.2 – Lobo
    Written by Marguerite Bennett
    Illustrated by Ben Oliver

    Zach’s Thoughts: If this was an ongoing series, from this creative team, I would buy it. In fact, the most disappointing thing about this issue is that it’s a one shot, not the first issue of a continuing series. Bennette does a great job of giving this new Lobo a reason to exist, and makes him far more engaging than the Liefeld and Starlin Lobos we’ve seen so far. The art team of Ben Oliver and Cliff Richards, however, is the real show stealer. This is a gorgeous book, and the duo really makes the new Lobo design work. It’s far less “Twilight” than the Rocafort designs, and closer to the character’s original depiction. Don’t let the internet furor and fanboy raging deter you from checking out this stellar effort.

    Verdict: Killer (Croc)

    Is this better than the average issue of “Justice League?” – No, but it’s got more heart.

    Brian’s Thoughts: This is maybe the most ambitious issue of “Justice League” since the book started, which is more of a condemning of the series than it is a praise for this issue, but it should be noted that this issue tries really hard. It tries to make you care about the “new” Lobo, it tries to make you understand why there’s two Lobos in this DCnU, and the creative team really, really gives it their all. Oliver is, perhaps, my favorite artist working today, and his contributions to this book are quite nice. Bennett, bless her heart, constructs a story that makes sense, that is compelling, and gives Lobo just about everything you’d want a spotlight issue to do. But something about this story just stinks of all the problems DC has with its creators right now. But no one’s heart is truly in this, because it is pretty clear that there were so many mandates presented to the creators that all they are doing is coloring in the, confusing, weird, lines.

    Verdict: Two-Faced

    Is this better than the average issue of “Justice League?” – Not quite – it tries harder, but achieves less.

    Vince’s Thoughts: I was so, so close to giving this issue a “Killer Croc” rating. Aside from one too many “Sorry, not sorries”, I really enjoyed “Lobo.” In the end, I have to submit to the fact that I ultimately agree with Brian. How much better would the issue have been if Bennett and Oliver’s vision was allowed free reign? We already know that isn’t the case, and you can easily see the seams on the story from a mile away. When Dan DiDio says that ‘New 52’ comics have to feel like they’re a part of a shared universe, this is where the weaknesses show up. “Lobo” feels the need to tie what began as a simple smuggling mission into the overall ‘New 52’ narrative and trips up on the dumb and overly complicated “impostor Lobo” story. That “origin-less”, solo smuggling mission that we got for most of the issue? Boy, that’s exactly what I wish there were more of in ‘Villains Month’. Ben Oliver also goes for a more traditional penciling style, which looks good on him and meshes well with Cliff Richards’ contributions.

    Continued below

    Verdict: Two-Faced (on the high side!)

    Is this better than the average issue of “Justice League?” – Maybe? Some issues of Johns’ “Justice League” have been really great (the pre-‘Trinity War’ recruitment issues) and others…haven’t.

    Justice League of America #7.2 – Killer Frost
    Written by Sterling Gates
    Illustrated by Derlis Santacruz

    Zach’s Thoughts: Frost is often lost in the shuffle of DC’s ice villains, behind big fish like Captain Cold and Mr. Freeze. However, Gates does a great job at giving Frost a unique villainous niche. Like “Riddler” and “Black Manta,” Gates focuses on Frost’s reaction to the disappearance of Firestorm and her resulting despair. It’s going to be really interesting where these characters go in the months moving forward.

    Verdict: Two-Faced

    Is this better than the average issue of “Justice League of America?” – No

    Brian’s Thoughts: I guess DC felt that it needed to represent a Firestorm villain (despite not having a Firestorm book), and so Killer Frost got the call over many other villains that are far more interesting. This also suffers from coming out the same week as the, much better, Mr. Freeze issue. Gates and Santacruz do their best, but this isn’t a particularly interesting character, and they craft basically the same issue as the Black Manta issue, only with more unnecessary origin details and less actual story. So, when the story appears to be derivative, and the character appears derivative, there isn’t much that can elevate this above “meh” status.

    Oh, and I’m pretty sure that Gail Simone/Ethan Van Sciver already introduced a Killer Frost in “Fury of Firestorm: The Nuclear Men” #1 – and it certainly wasn’t the same character/origin. Nice editing!

    Verdict: Two-Faced

    Is this better than the average issue of “Justice League of America?” – No.

    Vince’s Thoughts: At first blush, “Killer Frost” feels like a really ordinary throwaway villain origin. Sterling Gates tries something completely different from what we’ve seen in ‘Villains Month’ issues so far, and it really ends up setting the issue apart. Caitlin Snow is a sympathetic character all the way through, but doesn’t need to be battered by her dad or have an alcoholic mother to make her into a villain. But the story works better than those do, because it’s just plain executed more competently. We see her character go through an arc. We see “Killer Frost” as a villain because she’s a victim of circumstance. There’s a few unfortunate snow-related puns and coincidences along the way, but that’s what comic book villainy is. This harkens back to a time when comic book villains were the victims of wacky science gone wrong and came off as really refreshing in a ‘New 52’ that seems to try to cheapen things with grit. For an issue that technically does nothing special – that in itself is a special fact.

    Verdict: Two-Faced.

    Is this better than the average issue of “Justice League of America?” – Yes.

    Superman #23.2 – Brainiac
    Written by Tony Bedard
    Illustrated by Pascal Allxe

    Zach’s Thoughts: To my surprise, I really enjoyed this issue. Part of it definitely has to do with its close ties to Morrison’s Action Comics run. Here, Brainiac is cast as a sort of Bizarro Jor-El, fighting against the 5th dimensional multitude in place of an unstable planetary core. There’s also a lot of Lex Luthor here in the character’s DNA as well, doing seemingly selfless things for entirely selfish reasons. The combination makes for an interesting and well developed character. Alixie’s art is solid and detailed, though a little muddled from the heavy cross-hatching. Still, this one was a surprising win.


    Verdict: Killer (Croc)

    Is this better than the average issue of “Superman?” – Yes

    Brian’s Thoughts: There is nothing, on the surface, wrong with this comic, but it feels blah in just about every way. The cross-hatch heavy artwork (hat tip to Vince), the “must send out the incriminating evidence before I die” scene, the bad parenting – it’s all been done before, and done better. At least in this story, Brainiac is the bad parent, and he isn’t the result of a father’s unloving touch, like ¾ of the villains this month.

    Continued below

    Verdict: Two-Faced

    Is this better than the average issue of “Superman?” – Yes – subtract Lobdell from any of his titles and you’ve got a halfway decent book.

    Vince’s Thoughts: This is your typical yeoman’s effort from Tony Bedard, meaning that it’s going to tell a straightfoward story of Brainiac’s origin very competently, but probably won’t blow you away. Bedard does a good job of providing an arc from Brainiac being a desperate man to losing sight of his noble intentions for saving entire planets. If I have any criticisms of the story, it would be that the transition happens awfully fast, but it’s tough to pull that sort of thing off in 20 pages. Pascal Alixe’s is technically very competent and detailed, but there’s an overabundance of odd crosshatching going on that didn’t always sit with me the way that it should have.

    Verdict: Two-Faced

    Is this better than the average issue of “Superman?” – Yes.

    Teen Titans #23.1 – Trigon
    Written by Marv Wolfman
    Illustrated by Cafu

    Zach’s Thoughts: “Trigon” started off kind of interesting, with celestial beings trying to eradicate evil by collecting it in a giant “heart.” Then, the issue turned into Trigon spreading copies of himself throughout the universe(s) by raping random women. Or something like that, I’m not sure. Regardless, it wasn’t good.

    Verdict: H’el-ish

    Is this better than the average issue of “Teen Titans?” – No, and that’s really sad.

    Brian’s Thoughts: This is yet another example of an origin that no one was up at night trying to crack – Trigon is an evil demon, done. This issue let his creator, Marv Wolfman, run wild and tell the most complete Trigon origin imaginable. While that is not the worst thing a creator can do, it doesn’t play into Wolfman’s strengths. He writes young characters exceptionally well, and often brings heart and humor into what he does. Here, all of that is gone. Instead, this is just another boring origin, albeit one with fine art from Cafu. Plus, more rape!

    Verdict: H’el-ish

    Is this better than the average issue of “Teen Titans?” – Who the hell knows anymore?

    Vince’s Thoughts: “Who are you and what have you done to my Teen Titans?” – is probably what Marv Wolfman said at some point when he was boning up on the New 52 for the writing of this issue. Not that it matters much, as whatever is going on here isn’t much better. If you’re at all interested in seeing Wolfman and CAFU try to explain how Trigon impregnates unwilling women across the universe into giving birth to his own self in various forms, then by all means. Hey, it gets points for being one of the most disgusting things I’ve seen in a “Teen Titans” era that has triggered my gag reflex over and over for a variety of reasons. This rape-heavy issue is a pointless revelry in all of the things that are wrong with modern comics. This isn’t “Crossed” – this is “Teen Titans.” Even after all of their transgressions, I can’t believe DC published this one.

    Verdict: H’el-ish

    Is this better than the average issue of “Teen Titans?” – Would you rather have your left eye poked out or your right?

    Final Thoughts for the Week:

    Brian: This week was far more up and down than last week The highs were certainly higher, but the lows were really, truly terrible. Overall, I think most of these stories suffer from the theme of the month, overall. If even the lamest of these stories was a “regular” issue, or part of an annual, it would be compared to the story directly before it, and be seen as it truly is, only one small piece in the mosaic of a book.

    However, by isolating these stories into one month, you’re asking someone like Killer Frost to compete, origin/story-wise, to the Riddler or Black Manta. That’s not fair to the lesser characters. Similarly, when you have some of the top creators in the business squaring off with fill-in guys, that also puts certain books at an instant disadvantage. It’s not like you’re loving X book and need to continue that story – these are almost all totally separate stories, and therefore don’t even tug on the story heartstrings.

    Continued below

    And the meaningless violence and incessant “bad family” story is getting really, really old. And we have two more weeks of it. Let’s hope everyone next week is an orphan or came from a wonderful family who is still alive. Somehow, I think the chances of a fantastic H’el issue are higher.

    Vince: There were a couple more standout issues, but most things fell around the middle of the pack this week. I actually think Week 2 went a little better than Week 1, though there are still some pretty big issues with “Villains Month” that keep showing up.

    I’m not a prude. I enjoy a violent comic just as much as the next guy (Hell, Image Comics’ very best titles can still be accused of being hyper-violent). I just question whether every issue, even in villains month, has to have an exploding head or a decapitation in it. Whatever happened to leaving things to the imagination? Does this stuff really sell comics? Maybe it’s just me, but I find creepier scenes of horrific implications or suggestions to be just as effective as showing a bloody stump of a neck, if not more so. ‘Villains Month’ has doubled down on brutal violence and it’s a little much for me.

    The issues near the top of the heap seemed to have a reason for being there that was more closely tied to “Forever Evil.” While I don’t believe that every series has to have visible ties to the overall status quo of the DC Universe (and that straining to do so actually hurts the end product), it only makes sense to have your top writers like Geoff Johns and Scott Snyder keeping a good thing going. So far, “Forever Evil” and Snyder’s Riddler story qualify as “good things”, even if I don’t think “Villains Month” itself is. The issues near the middle or bottom of the pack continued to give us too much of the same equation of (sob story + tasteless violence + unneeded origin update). I’ll admit that my issue grades are incredibly choosy, but I’m personally trying to tell DC Comics exactly what I want more of with my dollar – and that’s all anyone can do.

    Zach: For me, this week was considerably better than last. There was a lot more diversity in plot from the usual “bad family/childhood=scarred psyche.” Like the other guys have mentioned, the books that tie into the “Forever Evil,” or just choose to not focus on origin, consistently end up in the top tier. We saw it last week with “Two-Face,” and it holds up here with “Riddler” and “Black Manta.” Books that I expected to hate, like “Brainiac” or “Lobo,” ended up really surprising me, showing that Villain’s Month shouldn’t be written off as a collection of shallow, cliche-ridden one-shots.

    To me, the biggest problem with Villain’s month is relevance and follow through. Due to the weird, point based numbering of books, there’s not a one to one correlation between the Villain books and the normal New 52 books. Some books, like “Black Manta” or “Court of Owls,” clearly show the reader where to follow the story in coming months. However, others give no indication of where to find that character next, or if the plot will even be picked up later. You would expect the creative team to bear some indication, but that may not be the case. For instance; Greg Pak wrote the “Zod” issue, which was under the banner of “Action Comics.” One would assume the story will be followed up in Pak’s upcoming “Action Comics” run. Recent solicitations show, however, that Zod will be appearing next in Charles Soule’s “Superman/Wonder Woman.” Unlike last year’s Zero Month, there’s not a clear sense of continuity, making it harder to figure out which books “matter” to me. Do I really need to pick up that “Doomsday” issue if I’m reading Pak’s “Bat/Superman?” Are we going to get a follow up on Killer Frost, or do we leave her miserable and hopeless? Granted, a lot of this frustration stems from my compulsive collective nature. Still I can’t help but feel that Villain’s Month is leaving a lot of new readers and casual fans scratching their heads.


    //TAGS | The DC3

    Brian Salvatore

    Brian Salvatore is an editor, podcaster, reviewer, writer at large, and general task master at Multiversity. When not writing, he can be found playing music, hanging out with his kids, or playing music with his kids. He also has a dog named Lola, a rowboat, and once met Jimmy Carter. Feel free to email him about good beer, the New York Mets, or the best way to make Chicken Parmagiana (add a thin slice of prosciutto under the cheese).

    EMAIL | ARTICLES

    Vince Ostrowski

    Dr. Steve Brule once called him "A typical hunk who thinks he knows everything about comics." Twitter: @VJ_Ostrowski

    EMAIL | ARTICLES

    Zach Wilkerson

    Zach "The Mercenary" Wilkerson may sometimes act like he hates comics, but he generally enjoys them, mostly. Ask him about his encyclopedic knowledge of the Kingdom Hearts series and follow him on twitter @wilkerfox.

    EMAIL | ARTICLES



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