A lot of people ask me how I pick which comics to read among 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. This week we have Batman #23.3 (Penguin), Action Comics #23.3 (Lex Luthor) and Flash #23.3 (The Rogues).
Action Comics #23.3 (Lex Luthor)
Written By: Charles Soule
Art By: Raymond Bermundez
Superman’s greatest foe isn’t an ultra-smart world collector, a broken clone, or a fellow Kryptonian bent on world domination. No, the man of tomorrow’s arch villain is just a man. Granted an extremely smart, rich and powerful man but none the less a man. Lex Luthor is Dick Cheany, Bill Gates, and Vladimir Putin in one bald alien obsessed man. He is cruel, unrelenting, enjoys torturing others: the definition of a sociopath. Lex Luthor maybe just a man but he can destroy your world with the greatest of ease.
In Action Comics #23.3 (Lex Luthor) we are shown just how dangerous a man he can be. In just a few pages, writer Charles Soule builds Lex from ex-con to king of the Metropolis. The whole story is brilliantly narrated by its lead giving us a much needed look inside the mind of the mad mogul. Lex is beyond a genius and here we clearly see why. With the greatest of ease Lex is able to destroy a competitor, discredit the Man of Steel, and test his new assistant. Soule allows Lex to be Lex and it’s fun yet terrifying. Luthor seems to control everything and with just a few words can burn it all down.
Raymond Bermundez is on art duties for this villain’s tale and he really knows how to express a man who seems so unfazed by the horror he causes. Bermundez breathes life into Lex through his eyes and smug smile. Although this book contains little physical action Bermundez still seems to capture the eye with each panel.
I really don’t have anything bad to say about this book; in fact after reading it I have such a better understanding of why Lex is such a fantastic evildoer. He is the coldest, smartest, most narsastic of them all. After these final pages there should be no questions as to why Lex Luthor can go toe to toe with the greatest hero in the universe.
Flash 23.3 (The Rogues)
Written By: Brian Buccellato
Art By: Patrick Zircher
I must admit I am not much of a Flash reader; nor am I that familiar with his villains. But when I heard we would be getting a villains month book about The Rogues, I couldn’t help to be intrigued. Who are the rogues you ask? They are a group of villains just trying to make a living. There is no grand scheme, no villainous death traps; in fact Captain Cold, Mirror Master, The Trickerster, Heatwave, Weather Wizard and Glider won’t even risk innocent civilians to insure their success. They are noble thieves and there is something very admirable and refreshing about that, especially in the bombastic world of comics.
Writer Brian Buccellato tells a great story about friends, family and the next big score. Buccellato gives us superb character development as we see cursed lovers, broken friendships, and siblings tested. These villains have been through the ringer and you feel every turn. The art only further heightened my enjoyment of this book as Zircher draws you in from page one. His panels are so full of texture and life even though the color and penciling is dark and gritty. The characters feel alive under Zircher’s touch, I really just loved watching each Rogue in action especially Captain Cold. Another nice asethic choice was the layout creativity as each page is different but flows nicely into the next. My favorite was the one page origin story and getting to see the burden Captain Cold has for the choices he made.
Flash 23.3 (The Rogues) was by far my favorite book this week and the one I would recommend. They aren’t your typical villains and the family vibe is such a great deviation from the norm. Buceellato and Zircher work together to make you care for this tragic team and by the end of the book I was rooting for them. I really love that they care for each other and the score is important but not the most important thing to them.
Batman #23.3 (Penguin)
Written By: Frank Tieri
Art By: Christina Duce
Batman arguably has the best rogues gallery in all of comics. His villains have so much range and depth, each brings something a little different to the table. While the Joker will take The Batman to the limit and Bane is the ultimate physical threat none threaten his city and way of life more than Penguin. Although Oswald Cobblepot may never be able to compete at the mental or physical level with the Dark Knight he can hurt the thing he loves most, Gotham. Penguin threatens everything The Batman is there to protect and does so from the comfort of his Iceberg Casino. Cobblepot is your classic gangster; money and power are his only desires and achieving those are easy if you’re not afraid to get your hands a little dirty in the process.
In this villain’s issue we are given a glimpse into the daily life of Gotham’s bird obsessed gangster. Tieri infuses classic mobster movie tropes with the opening feeling like it came right out of Martin Scorceci’s Casino. Penguin is a public figure but isn’t afraid to go out a back door and take care of a couple of low life cheaters. Tieri establishes Penguin as a threat to Gotham’s well being and a man who will do anything to ensure that status quo remains. Penguin isn’t the scariest of the Gotham Rogues but certainly has a knack for getting what he wants.
I didn’t feel the stroy was the strong point of this book as the Art is outstanding. Duce draws the Penguin perfectly; each glance, scowl and smirk says so much about the man behind the expression. Color is also used quite well as scenes transition from dark to light adding drama and intrigue. My favorite panel is a close up on Cobblepot, half is face lit the other shrouded in darkness; he appears to be half man half bird and it’s beautiful and terrifying.
Batman 23.3 was a entertaining look into the fowl themed villain but left a little to be desired. The Art was the standout here as Duce is able to get so much out of these characters. If you’re looking for a great Penguin story I would say skip this and go watch Batman Returns. You will get the same character and ideas but with a little more substance and fun.