Review – Gotham City Villains Anniversary Giant #1: A Celebration of Evil

Comic Books DC This Week

 

Gotham City Villains Anniversary Giant #1 variant cover, via DC Comics.

 

Gotham City Villains Anniversary Giant #1 – Danny DeVito, Wes Craig, G. Willow Wilson, Phillip Kennedy Johnson, Joshua Williamson/Nadia Shammas, Stephanie Phillips, Dan Watters, Mairghread Scott, Writers; Dan Mora, Wes Craig, Emma Rios, Riccardo Federici, Max Raynor, Max Fiumara, Skylar Partridge, Ariela Kristantina, Artists; Tamra Bonvillain, Jason Wordie, Jordie Bellaire, Sunny Gho, John Kalisz, Marissa Louise, Trish Mulvihill, Colorist

Ray – 8.5/10

Ray: It’s time for another anniversary mega-special! Joker already got his spotlight issue, and now it’s the rest of Gotham’s rogues’ turn. How do the eight spotlight stories inside fare?

Credits. Via DC Comics.

First up is “Bird Cat Love” by Danny DeVito and Dan Mora. Yes, that Danny DeVito, writing a Penguin/Catwoman romance tale. What the heck is going on? Why is Penguin saving kids from being run over by cars and Catwoman protecting baby birds? And what exactly is this wild heist they’re planning together? The answer isn’t what you think. This story doesn’t really fit into… well, anything, for a lot of reasons. I think this is less a true Penguin story and more a very offbeat tale of how Danny DeVito feels about the state of the world. You do you, legend.

Wes Craig goes solo on “The Fearless Man,” a surreal Scarecrow tale. As Scarecrow plunges Gotham into darkness in another fear experiment, the story is narrated to someone called the “Fearless Man”—a hero who will rise up and challenge the darkness. It’s an odd tale, with scenes of urban violence very reminiscent of Craig’s work on Deadly Class. The story ends on an ambiguous note with quite a few unanswered questions and feels more like an experiment than a narrative, but it looks stunning.

G. Willow Wilson and Emma Rios’ Poison Ivy tale is a mouthful—“Ophiocordyceps Lamia.” This refers to an ancient fungi that seems to become dormant and revive at different points. It’s been weaponized by Ivy as she plans to take down a chemical plant in one of her more ruthless ecoterror strikes. But like her plants, Ivy is evolving—and she can’t seem to let go of this one sweet HR rep who reminds her a little too much of Harley. This story packs a lot into ten pages and has a great emotional punch. Easily the best of the issue so far,

Gotham City Villains Anniversary Giant #1 variant cover, via DC Comics.

“For the Sky Is Red” by Stephanie Phillips and Max Fiumara is an odd fit, because Red Hood isn’t really a villain and has been an antihero for at least ten years now. But that’s because this isn’t a Jason Todd story—it’s a Red Hood story, one set before Jason and even before Joker. How did Gotham’s first costumed criminal get his start? Who was the first person under the mask? The answer is more complicated than expected. Phillips does few things better than gritty historical noir, and this clever tale is another winner for the fast-rising writer.

“The Perfect Fit” by Dan Watters and Skylar Partridge turns the focus to Mad Hatter. Mad Hatter is usually played as a lower-tier Bat-villain, but this story uses some shocking body horror right at the start to prove how dangerous he can be. Damian Wayne and Detective Stone from Watters’ Arkham City mini are teaming up to track down the villain, but he has a very different plan than expected. This one feels more like a teaser for the ongoing mini than anything and is short, but packs a creepy punch in those few pages.

Killer Moth is an unlikely pick for one of the eight spots, and “The Happiest Man in Gotham” by Mairghread Scott and Ariela Kristantina is an odd story to go with it. Killer Moth is a loser and that’s part of why he’s popular, but he’s not Kite-Man-level sad. This is a clever tale that recaps his long sad history as a failed supervillain—and then segues into where he’s been. Turns out he’s actually become one of the most successful, happiest villains in Gotham—because Moths aren’t hunters, they’re scavengers. Short, but very clever.

The Al Ghul’s close things out with two stories, starting with Phillip Kennedy Johnson and Riccardo Federici on “Demon’s Game”. Split between the first meeting between Batman and Ra’s, and a modern-day battle as Ra’s makes a move on Gotham to claim dangerous technology, it loosely ties into the recent Batman/Superman Authority Special but really stands on its own. The rivalry between Batman and Ra’s is one of the most complex of any hero and villain, and this covers that unique dynamic nicely.

Finally, Talia closes this out in “The Second Eye” by Joshua Williamson, Nadia Shammas, and Max Raynor. This story seems to focus on the ruthless upbringing Talia had under Ra’s. He wasn’t abusive like David Cain was to Cass, not to the same extent. Rather, he encouraged Talia’s development into a warrior while also denying her vital things she needed—like knowledge about her mother. It’s a good portrayal of how this treatment forged her into the complex and volatile woman she is today, and sets her up well for a major role in Shadow War.

Overall, it’s a solid anthology with no real bad stories, but quite a few strange ones. Well worth picking up for Gotham villain fans.

To find reviews of all the DC issues, visit DC This Week.

GeekDad received this comic for review purposes.

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