Dear Super-Villains – Michael Northrop, Writer; Gustavo Duarte, Artist; Cris Peter, Colorist
Ray – 9/10
Ray: On the heels of their hit all-ages graphic novel Dear Justice League—which saw the heroes of the DCU answering fan letters from curious kids in the middle of an alien battle—the creative team of Michael Northrop and Gustavo Duarte reunite for a follow-up—but this time it’ll be the DCU’s most famous supervillains answering those letters. So how does this more chaotic sequel stand up to the original?
First up is Catwoman—who really hasn’t been a villain for a long time, but in this story still enjoys stealing some precious artifacts. Hot off a heist in Cairo—that’s nearly ruined when she can’t resist one more gold cat statue—Selina gets a message asking why Batman is ever able to beat her if she has so many more tricks up her sleeve. The answer may be a bit of a tired cat joke, but it’s also a fantastically funny visual that gets this new volume off to a clever start with one of their most popular antiheroes.
Not an antihero is Lex Luthor, who takes the lead in the second story. Currently incarcerated, the criminal businessman has time to obsess over Superman—and answer some fan mail. Well, sort of. Most of his letters are from kids heckling him over his roughly 0-276 record against Superman, and one particularly snarky kid wants to know why he hasn’t cured baldness yet. This leads to a clever segment where Luthor tries—and fails with hilarious consequences. Let’s just say Jimmy Olsen isn’t the only Metropolis resident with a secret Wolf-Boy history.
Joker doesn’t have a headline segment in this book—probably too much of a liability—but Harley Quinn is, and a question from a fan about a potential career in stand-up comedy leads to a flashback to one of her most humiliating moments. This is amusingly chaotic, but the question barely has a role in this chapter. It’s mostly about the Legion of Doom completely falling apart with Luthor in prison, becoming more like a clubhouse of evil. Harley may be the only voice of reason left, as terrifying as that is.
Next up, it’s Gorilla Grodd—and as we all know, evil apes make everything better. While Harley petitions the crew to break Lex out, Grodd seethes with resentment over the fact that no one sees him as a natural leader. When he gets a letter from a kid who wants the “super smart monkey” to help him with math, this leads to a rant on the difference between apes and monkeys—and a hilarious flashback to Grodd’s time as a juvenile delinquent in Gorilla City as he investigated a meteor that wound up giving him his powers. Probably the funniest story in the book so far.
Next up is Giganta, usually a more minor villain in DC Comics and rarely seen as a member of the Legion of Doom. While much of her story is about stealing from an armored truck and dodging the internal politics of the Legion, Dr. Zeul does get the time to answer a question from a teen girl who is unusually tall and feels awkward—so naturally, she seeks out the advice of the tallest woman of all. Despite this being a book of villains, this is actually a very charming segment with some nice messages about self-esteem and turning differences into strengths.
I can’t imagine Sinestro giving advice to kids, which is why I was looking forward to this segment. This is a short story, where Sinestro gets a question from a little girl about if he’s mean all the time. That leads into a clever digression as he and Atrocitus battle over who gets to take a spaceship—only for Sinestro to suddenly become sentimental when he sees a kitten inside the ship. Is Sinestro remotely in character here? No. Did it make me laugh anyway, especially the ending? Absolutely.
The chapter that puzzled me the most is the next one, featuring Katana—who not only has never been a member of the Legion of Doom, but has never really been a villain. The book portrays her as a ronin and mercenary, essentially hired by the Legion for evil purposes, which she’s fine with. I think Lady Shiva might have been better for this role, but her story is action-packed and one of the longer ones in the volume. Her question—from a little Japanese boy about what’s so bad about playing fair—doesn’t really play into the story much, but this version of Katana is intriguing.
Black Manta is another villain who might be a tricky fit for this book, given how dangerous and evil the character is normally. Set the day before the villains’ rescue mission, Black Manta gets a fan letter from a kid who has drawn his own comic featuring his favorite villain. I’m a big fan of the comic-within-a-comic format, and the art is a great twist from Duarte’s regular style. This is a quick story, as Manta’s ego gets the best of him, and the last page twist is kind of obvious in retrospect but very funny.
Finally, the various plotlines converge for a concluding segment as the villains make their move on Luthor’s prison. The story does a good job of setting each of the villains’ fatal flaws up in their initial story, meaning their eventual defeats serve as a great climax to the book. There are a few clever twists and great sight gags in the last few pages. This wasn’t a natural fit for a sequel, given that only a few of these characters could be called likable, but Northrop and Duarte have delivered yet another big win for the DC OGN line.
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GeekDad received this comic for review purposes.