Thursday, 17 October 2013

The Mane Event - Villains' Month, a retrospective

September 2013. The two year anniversary of the New 52. It brought us Villains' Month and a lot of stress and headaches for comic retailers, disappointment and frustration for comic fans, and a large jump in revenue for DC. I'm glad to see the back of it frankly, but now the dust has settled it's time to look past all the cover nonsense and ask a question that was often overlooked in all the kerfuffle.

Were any of the stories any good?

Matt Puddy and I are joined by our newest recruit, Jack Meldrum, as we delve into some of the best and the worst of Villains' Month.

Green Lantern #23.1 Relic

reviewed by Matt Puddy
Relic is a brand new villain who poses a great threat - he understands how all the rings and light works and intends to take it all away. Without stripping away the threat the Relic poses, Robert Venditti shows him to be a man of science who survived the destruction of the universe that came before the current one. He's on a mission to save this universe from the end that his fell to. It becomes clear that the Corps are using a power source which isn’t as unlimited as they think. Although this is a purely historic issue, it does also give context to the new Lights Out arc within the Green Lantern titles. The legendary Rags Morales has provided the artwork which includes the imagining of the former Lightsmiths and their war. All in all this makes for a well rounded issue that fans should definitely pick up.

Justice League #23.1: Darkseid
reviewed by Jack Meldrum

Darkseid #1 is one of the most unique comics I've ever picked up. It straddles multitudes of descriptors, evades easy pinning. At once artistically gorgeous, narratively engaging, character driven, mythic and bizarre, conflicted, self-conscious and flaccid, Darkseid is perhaps best put in that most unhelpful-but-succinct category – it's really, really weird. Greg Pak delivers the origin story for the all-new, all-shoulderpads Darkseid, and to my surprise, for a good 2/3 of the book it's really something. That's not a knock on Pak (I love his work) or DC, it's a comment on how difficult it appears to be to write the Lord of Apokolips well – but Pak pulls it off, mostly. Wrapped around gorgeous art by Siqueira and Diaz that lends the story a magisterial, earth-shaking quality, Pak tells us how Darkseid came to be – namely, he murdered his gods with a scythe and stole their stuff. Unfortunately, the book wobbles shortly after the delightful Kaiyo (currently messing stuff up in Pak's stellar Batman/Superman) escapes Apokolips and we start to get answers to questions floating around since that first Justice League arc.

Detective Comics #23.2 Harley Quinn
reviewed by Matt Puddy

Opening with a 3D cover that takes full advantage of Harley’s large... mallet... for impact, Matt Kindt story explores Harley’s backstory and mental state. The issue opens with her now free of the Suicide Squad and not sure what to do next. Looking back on her life, she reviews who she is, from her family and upbringing through to her 'rebirth' complete with almost self-induced schizophrenia. The writing is clever enough to make her sound completely self-aware, displaying the intelligence that earned her a doctorate, whilst also opening the door to her psychotic streak. The art is riddled with gratuitous male gaze though and the origin of some parts of her hideous current New 52 outfit will surely enrage some readers and does nothing to diminish the allegations of misogyny levelled at DC in recent years. A mixed bag and a wasted issue really. Roll on Harley's new ongoing series from Amanda Conner.

Green Lantern #23.3 Black Hand
reviewed by Matt Puddy

Of all of the Green Lantern villains Black Hand has to be one of the creepiest. After the Blackest Night arc, William Hand became the avatar of the Black Lanterns and essentially an immortal adversary through the power of the black ring. His command over the undead means that he also controls an ever expanding army too. As such a formidable foe it was unsurprising that he made it onto the list of characters to get their own issue. The story, by Charles Soule, shows the Hand’s re-re-re-birth (?) into this world again and he then finds his way to a well known port of call - the grave of Hal Jordan’s father. There was one moment when I was impressed at the creativity on display, finding a new way to use Black Hand's powers and kill a police officer using the recent vaccination he had. Artistically the issue is similar to Charlie Adlard’s work on The Walking Dead, but cleaner and fills the page more to bulk it out. An outstanding issue that stands on its own.

Batman: The Dark Knight #23.4 Joker's Daughter
reviewed by Ben Fardon
The concept of the Joker's Daughter predates the New 52 by some way, but it's a character that's rarely been showcased like this before. There was plenty of speculation as to her identity prior to the issue's release. Pre-New 52 she was Duela Dent, with a complicated backstory that varied depending on whether you were reading pre-Crisis On Infinite Earths or not. Here, many readers wondered if she'd turn out to be Harper Row, a character from Scott Snyder's Batman run who may be set to be the new Robin. Could she have created an undercover alias for herself, infiltrating the Gotham underworld in a manner akin to the Zero Year pre-Batman Bruce Wayne posing as a member of the Red Hood gang? Sadly not. This is a seemingly simplified version of the original Joker's Daughter. But let's not do Ann Nocenti any disservice, because I quite enjoyed this issue! Duela is the disturbed daughter of a wealthy Gotham couple, with subtle hints that it is indeed Mr & Mrs Harvey Dent. A pretty girl whose obsession with all things ugly leads her to scar herself, she is an outcast wandering the sewers with a mangy cat, until - quite by chance - she finds the Joker's discarded face floating in the effluent after the events of the Death Of The Family. This macabre mask of infamous flesh gives her a newfound resolve and she sets about uniting the criminal denizens of the Gotham Underground into a matriarchal society. It's superb fun and provides the origin for a story set to continue in Nocenti's excellent run on Catwoman.

Ben Fardon, Matt Puddy and Jack Meldrum have successfully completed their first team-up, neatly sidestepping the initial tedious infighting that usually characterises such fare.

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