A lot of people ask me how I pick which comics to read amongst the crowded racks. How do you know what stories to read? How do you know if you’re going to like it? What I usually tell them is it’s all in the rouges. The villain in a comic book is the story, they make the hero. The main character will always be there, embedded in each story, but the villain leaves the lasting impression. As much as we all like to root for our favorite hero, it’s the villain that draws us in.
This month DC is dedicating its entire library and its first major event to the villains. When I heard DC was doing this I counted down the days till we got our first issues and it’s finally here. To celebrate this occasion and to try and show you what I love most about comics, I will be doing weekly mini reviews for selected DC Villains’ Month titles. First up we have Forever Evil #1, Justice League #23.1 (Darkseid) and Batman #23.1 (Joker).
Forever Evil #1
By: Geoff Jones
Forever Evil is DC’s first big crossover event since the creation of The New 52. Geoff Jones has been the architect of The New 52 and in my opinion has elevated DC’s story telling as of late. Forever Evil stems off the culmination of The Trinity War in which the Justice League was ultimately beaten by their Earth 3 evil counterparts, The Crime Syndicate. Comprised of Ultraman, Superwoman, Owlman, Power Ring, Deathstorm, Johnny Quick, and Atomica, The Crime Syndicate has one purpose; make the world their kingdom.
In the first issue Johns is simply setting up the premise and showing us a world devoid of our heroes and overrun by their villains. Forever Evil is a great setup, engaging, griping and leaving me wanting more. This is how every event should start. John’s knows how to write villains and this is his master stroke. This is John’s world and you can see he is having the time of his life playing in it. He even sows seeds that will have repercussions far beyond the conclusion of this event and forever effect the DCU.
Although I can’t say enough about the story it is the art that sends it into the stratosphere. David Finch creates a visual feast especially if your a fan of the villains like I am. We get some great scenes that are beautifully drawn and plotted. The stand outs include Ultraman snorting Kryptonite like crack cocaine, Nightwing being ambushed, and the meeting of villains. The latter is especially beautiful, a fold out splash page showing all the villains gathered to meet The Crime Syndicate. I spent at least 20 minutes scanning over it trying to find and name each rouge, it’s a masterpiece deserving of a frame and mount in the DC hall of fame.
Forever Evil is a great start to what I hope is a once in a lifetime event by DC. This is a great place to start for newcomers and something every longtime fan will love. Forever Evil will give you an eye opening view into why the villains rule.
Justice League #23.1 (Darkseid)
By: Greg Pak
Art: Paulo Siqueira and Netho Diaz
Darkseid is the worst of the worst in the DCU. Ruler of Apokolips, he is bent on finding the Anti-Life equation: the means to the ultimate end for everything. Darkseid is the biggest, baddest villain in the DCU and when he sets his eyes on Superman or the Justice League it’s often an earth shattering event.
In this issue we are given the origin of the titular character. It’s the story of gods and mortals and one man’s quest for unlimited power and the freedom from the religion that controls everything around him. Darkseid is created from rage, jealousy, anger and the desire to break the binds of destiny. Pak creates an origin that is worthy of ultimate evil. Darkseid comes to power in a terrible way giving him the perfect motivation for ultimate universal destruction.
Pak does create a great origin but I think it misses the mark in bringing new readers to the series. The stories is full of DC lore and new readers may be lost in all the reference to new and old gods. The highlight for me was actually seeing the origin of the Boom Tube which is how Darkseid traverse the universe. Seiqueira and Diaz’s art is suitable here as the character models are fantastic but the action and layout are hard on the eyes. I also found the coloring to use a lot of orange and brown which fits fine for the fiery world of Apokolips but seemed over used everywhere else.
Justice League #23.1 (Darkseid) is a must read for any fan of the villain, offering more insight into his destructive motivation than we have seen to date. This maybe one for new readers to stay away from though as it is full of DC lore that can be hard to follow and turn off those looking for a fun introduction into the DCU. Pak creates a compelling story but it sees reserved for those already immersed in this universe.
Batman 23.1 (Joker)
By: Andy Kubert
Art: Andy Clarke
The Joker is by far comic’s most recognizable and fearsome villain. His only purpose in life is to cause utter torment for everything and everyone he comes into contact with. In his Villain’s Month spotlight we get a glimpse into Joker’s past and it’s as cruel and disturbing as you would expect. This isn’t an orgin but merely a snapshot in time. The story follows Joker as he tries to build his own family and undo the wrongs he was bestowed upon as a child. Of course in true Joker style he does so in the oddest way possible by kidnapping a baby guerilla and raising it as his own son.
Kubert knows how to tap into the darkest corners of his characters and with Joker he is in true form. We get a glimpse at what created this monster through nightmarish flashbacks that still haunt me as I write this. Kubert created a Joker story near perfection, it’s disturbing, heartbreaking and funny; everything required to make you love and hate this character. Kubert’s journey through the mind of a mad man will make you a little sick but also shed a tear. This is only heighted by Clarke’s art as emotion and expression leap of the page. Everything is alive in Clarke’s drawings and you can see the emotion dripping from each characters face. The layout is also a stand out for me as it’s easy to follow but fits the narrative. The center splash page is an exceptional highlight showcasing the many adventures of Joker and his new primitive sidekick.
If you can only pick up one comic this week Batman 23.1 would be my suggestion. The journey that Kubert and Clarke take you on is dark and gruesome but will somehow make you smile at the end. It’s a prime example on how to write and display DC comics more prominent bad guy, with no mercy and in your face. Batman 23.1 will make you cringe, laugh and possible cry but most of all it will give you a glimpse into the madhouse that is the Joker.