DC’s Year of the Villain #1 – Scott Snyder, Brian Michael Bendis, James Tynion IV, Writers; Jim Cheung, Alex Maleev, Francis Manapul, Artists
Ray – 9/10
Ray: DC’s Year of the Villain is the next big event for the company, less of a traditional event comic than a year-long branding that will impact almost all their books. It’s spinning out of Snyder and Tynion’s ongoing narrative in Justice League and related books, but will apparently also pull in plot threads from the upcoming Event Leviathan and The Batman Who Laughs miniseries.
Written by three of DC’s top writers, it kicks off with an explosive segment where Lex Luthor announces himself to the world as a villain again in a big way – attacking the White House and threatening Amanda Waller along with the Legion of Doom. Now public enemy #1, he disbands his fortune to the villains of the world, and then engineers his own death before his arrest by Captain Atom. It’s a great spotlight for Luthor’s long-game plan – just before it takes a crazy turn that I did not see coming.
The story then shifts to the second main thread, as the mysterious Leviathan makes its big move against the heroes and villains of the DCU. It opens with Merlyn under attack by Leviathan as he desperately tries to convince Batgirl and Green Arrow to help him escape. This is definitely a Bendis comic, as the dialogue comes fast and furious. Alex Maleev’s art is well-suited to the dialogue-driven story, capturing the sense of tension amid a dark, rainy night. Things go badly, and Batgirl winds up facing off one-on-one against the masked Leviathan, who makes an intimidating figure. As Green Arrow sends a message to Batman, Damian shares his theory that Leviathan is Red Hood – something he seems much more careful about than when he tried to kill Jason only a few issues ago. The segment also brings Oracle back into continuity in an interesting way, which raises a lot of questions about the timeline. Did Babs run the Suicide Squad during summer vacation?
The final segment shifts the focus to James Tynion IV’s part in the story, as the Justice League gathers to discuss the growing threat. Francis Manapul’s art in this segment is great, especially in a double-page spread depicting the full roster of heroes. The Batman Who Laughs has a smaller role here than expected – it seems he’s not getting a solo series but will be factoring prominently into a Williamson-written Batman/Superman series.
The ending twist revealing what’s become of Luthor is one of the biggest mind-screws I’ve seen in a DC book in a while, and the story as a whole seems to build nicely on what Snyder is doing in his core title. I’m not sure about the tease at the end that several heroes will betray the League, but this feels like an exciting direction for the line that pays tribute to the most out-there parts of the DCU.
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Disclaimer: GeekDad received this comic for review purposes.