WHAT ROCKED AND WHAT SUCKED ABOUT DC’S ‘VILLAINS MONTH’

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Since the advent of the New 52 in September 2011, DC has decided to give every anniversary month a special theme. Last year’s was the Zero Issue Month, which came as an unwelcome interruption to my regular programming to bring me – yawn – origin stories. This year’s event was Villains Month, to coincide with their new series Forever Evil. All regular titles were put on hold as the company released special one-shots, each centered around a super villain in the New 52.

Here are my thoughts on DC’s latest gimmick.

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What Rocked:

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The first issue of Forever Evil by Geoff Johns is the perfect jumping on point for people who skipped the Trinity War. Everything is spelled out perfectly in a natural way that didn’t reek of exposition: the Justice League has been disposed and replaced by their evil counterparts from another world, a group that calls itself the Crime Syndicate. They have come to rule over the main DC universe and empower other super villains.

Lex Luthor remains ever the sociopath. He recalls a time in his youth he helped rescue his sister’s cat from a tree only to be scratched by the frightened animal. In retaliation, he threw the poor creature in the river. The scary thing is that he might just be humanity’s only hope, mainly because the Crime Syndicate’s Ultra Man bears a strong resemblance to Lex’s greatest nemesis. As they say, “The enemy of my enemy is my friend.”

Many of the one-shots revolving around super villains tied in quite nicely to Forever Evil. The permanent solar eclipse Ultra Man creates to shield himself from the sun’s harmful rays is seen across many issues, and in Aquaman #23.1: Black Manta, we get to see how that affected the tides. In Batman The Dark Knight #23.3: Clayface, our titular hero (actually, villain) suffers a bruised ego after not being invited to join the Crime Syndicate’s ranks. I’d say I’m sufficiently pumped up for this next crossover event.

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What Sucked:

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Thinking of skipping Forever Evil? Then this month must have sucked big time! Sure, there was a handful of stories that worked well enough on their own, but most of those were just rehashed origins, some of which were awful.

Three iconic villains were given horrific new identities. Cyborg Superman is no longer the evil genius, Hank Henshaw, but Supergirl’s father, Zor-El, now with new robotic parts and a hair dye job. A robotic Zor-El might have been an intriguing character in how right, but please, don’t introduce him in a very stilted ploy to bring back a classic 90s villain.

We have yet to see one of my other favorite villains, Eobard Thawne, in the New 52. Considering that we got some other guy calling himself the Reverse Flash, I’m pretty sure we won’t for a long time to come. This new guy is Iris West’s delinquent brother, Daniel West, and he’s got a new look that desperately tries to be edgy. He has a glowing red body and a carapace of blackened shrapnel, which begs the question: what’s wrong with yellow spandex?

And of course, there’s the new metro sexual Lobo, introduced as a possible replacement to the biker guy currently working with Stormwatch. To be perfectly honest, with all the other stuff happening at DC, I’m far too tired at this point to give a damn about this guy. I just thought he was worth mentioning. Boom! Mentioned! (To read my full thoughts, refer to this article .)

Oh, and please, DC, enough with Joker’s stupid severed face!

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My favorite Issue: Batman The Dark Knight #23.3: Clayface

This issue works well not only as a tie-in to Forever Evil, but a standalone story with a definite beginning, middle, and end. While the Secret Society of Super Villains are recruiting criminals left and right, Clayface is sadly left out. In an attempt to gain the Secret Society’s attention, he storms a military base dedicated to resisting the new world order. I won’t spoil the rest of the plot, but Clayface proves himself to be both a destructive force and a lovable dolt.

Most Disappointing Issue: Batman 23.1: The Joker

Poor Mister J. Since the New 52, we’ve seen more of his severed face than the actual clown himself. This month we finally got to read a story that featured a fully in tact Joker, and writer Andy Kupert gives us a glimpse into his childhood. Unfortunately, I find that the Joker always works better as an enigma than as a relatable character. Sure, this wasn’t the worst of the Villain Month issues, but the Joker’s name brings with it very high expectations.

Most Pleasant Surprise: Justice League of America #7.1: Deadshot

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Fans of Gail Simone’s Secret Six will remember Deadshot as a rakish mustachioed sociopath with a winning smile. That is not the Deadshot we have seen in the New 52’s Suicide Squad. Still ever the sociopath, but without the charm. While this issue does not fix Deadshot’s present personality, it at least showed what a bad-ass he could be. Not only does he never miss his target, he makes his own bullets, something even a peacenik like me can respect.

While I found many of the Villains Month issues enjoyable, I am very excited to start buying regular DC titles again next Wednesday.

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About Author

Paul de Vries

Paul de Vries was raised by a pack of wild Dutch immigrants in pastoral Western Massachusetts. Having trouble connecting with the other kids in his neighborhood, he sought refuge in Greek Mythology. As he matured, superheroes started replacing gods and now he observes each new comic book day religiously. He currently lives in New York City where he performs stand up comedy.