Top 10 Villains Month Issues
Villains Month has come and gone for DC Comics readers. If you don’t know what that is, this past month, DC replaced all of their normal books with one-shots starring supervillains instead of superheroes. While I haven’t read all of these, I have read a little more than half of them (basically just ones I wanted to read). So, here are the ten books I thought were best. Because I feel like it.
#10: Justice League #23.2: Lobo
The announcement that DC was rebooting Lobo after they’d already introduced Lobo into the New 52 was not welcome news. I know I myself certainly was enraged when we first saw the character designs of a more modern, less over-the-top fun outer space badass. When they stated that the Lobo that fans knew and loved, the anachronistic parody of 90’s comic book characters and storytelling, was apparently impersonating this new guy, I’ll admit I did not go in with an open mind. The plot was announced to be the rebooted Lobo hunting down the version fans were familiar with, and I was not happy at the prospect.
That said, I can’t pretend I don’t recognize quality when I see it. Marguerite Bennett introduces us to an interesting new character, a stone-cold killer whose mercilessness is matched only by how deadly he is. The rebooted Lobo has a lot of the same traits, interests, and even speech patterns of the classic Lobo (although his catchphrase, “Sorry. Not sorry” is incredibly annoying). It’s a very interesting character and the story is well told, and if they weren’t using the name “Lobo”, I’d like this new villain a lot.
But they are using the name “Lobo”. And this new version is just a shallow imitation of the original, recapturing a lot of the original Lobo’s traits, but not the heart and soul of the character that people love. And that’s why it’s on the bottom of this list.
#9: Teen Titans #23.1: Trigon
The creator of Trigon and legendary comic book writer Marv Wolfman makes his return to DC Comics by rebooting one of the Teen Titans’ greatest villains. Trigon is the tale of a demonic lord’s rise to power, how he runs on pure evil, and his plans for interdimensional conquest, as well as the obstacles he faces on his journey for it. It’s an incredible show of horrors, and we watch him kill and rape his way throughout history, and see how heartless he really is. If you want a bad guy who is just rotten to the core and a grand celebration of villainy, look no further than this book.
#8: Wonder Woman #23.1: The Cheetah
Villains Month brought back not just one, but two beloved veterans of the comic book industry to the New 52. In addition to Marv Wolfman, John Ostrander came back to tell us a tale of the Cheetah, Wonder Woman’s arch nemesis who has been kind of neglected since the New 52 begun (appearing only briefly in Justice League more recently Suicide Squad). Cheetah’s backstory is a terrifying and deranged one, with her being raised in a cult by her insane aunt, and letting us see what that upbringing results in now. Cheetah heads back home, with a US Marshall following her, and this tale of multiple parties hunting each other in a crazy environment is just full of tension on every single page.
#7: Green Lantern #23.3: Black Hand
Instead of a new issue of Red Lanterns this month, Charles Soule brings back a villain I thought we were done with: Black Hand. Geoff Johns used Black Hand a lot in his Green Lantern saga, but it seemed like he gave the guy a definitive end. Still, when you’re so closely tied to the forces of death itself, it seems there’s never truly an end. Black Hand’s resurrection is a surprisingly mellow story, a low-key subtle horror story where we actually follow the monster instead of its future victims. Black Hand has amnesia, and this gives the story a lot of tension as he slowly rediscovers who he is, and we’re just waiting for the moment when the monster remembers that it has fangs. It’s creepy and it’s a great read, and I recommend it to any fans of Black Hand or the Black Lanterns in general.
#6: Justice League Dark #23.2: Eclipso
Eclipso’s been a bit of a mess in the New 52, with the character and his iconic Black Diamond bouncing around all helter-skelter throughout the DC Universe. Dan Didio decides to finally ground Eclipso in what is a creepy tale of depression, violence, desperation, and what happens when you combine these elements in a deal with the devil. It’s cool and it’s scary, and you can read my full review here.
#5: Batman and Robin #23.4: Killer Croc
I wasn’t really familiar with the writing of Tim Seeley, and kind of picked this comic up on a whim. But boy, am I glad I did. Killer Croc has always been a character I’ve liked, but at the same time had some trouble really getting into. There just don’t seem to be many great Killer Croc stories out there, and the most common portrayal of the character I’ve seen is just a big dumb monster barely intelligent enough to pull off a crime.
But not here. Seeley delivers a surprisingly heart-warming and intelligent story about a cold-blooded brute. We get to see Killer Croc’s past, and while it’s sad, it’s not quite as tragic or disturbed as most of Batman’s villains, and this actually humanizes the character and makes him a lot more sympathetic. We get to witness Croc’s breaking point, see just what his beliefs and ideals are, and while he himself admits that he’s a monster, we get to see that he’s a lot more than that. If more writers wrote Killer Croc this way, he would definitely be one of my favorite villains, and it really makes me excited to see what his role will be in Arkham War.
#4: Batman: The Dark Knight #23.2: Mr. Freeze
The reboot was not kind to Mr. Freeze. Scott Snyder took the fantastic origin story Paul Dini wrote for Mr. Freeze and changed it radically. While I thought that the changes were quite good and very intelligent, most of the fanbase did not seem to agree with me. Either way, Freeze has appeared in a few books since we learned his new origin, but none of them really knew what to do with the character. Finally, Justin Gray and Jimmy Palmiotti stepped in and used the new origin story to their advantage, telling the story of what happens when Mr. Freeze reassess his priorities and looks for a new purpose in life. And to be totally corny, the result is chilling. Definitely a book worth reading. For more info, I’ve written a review.
#3: Justice League of America #7.4: Black Adam
Though opinions on Geoff Johns’ current Justice League book are mixed, the “Shazam” back-up story he had running in it from issue #7 to issue #21 has gotten a ton of positive reception. Johns’ reboot of Billy Batson, his family, and his arch-nemesis Black Adam was a fantastic story, and it’s had a lot of people clamoring for a Shazam ongoing series, which is rumored to be coming next year. In the meantime, this one-shot starring Shazam’s deadliest foe and one of the most powerful and terrifying characters in the DC Universe is a welcome addition. Co-written by Geoff Johns and Sterling Gates, this story shows us what Black Adam’s all about when he’s not trying to get revenge on the wizard who banished him from Earth. It brings back the popular portrayal of Black Adam as an incredibly ferocious antihero rather than a straight-up villain, who is both admirable and horrifying at the same time. It’s stories like this that remind you why Geoff Johns is so high up the food chain at DC, and I can only hope that he delivers more stories of this caliber in the future (which is not to put down Sterling Gates, I just have no idea how much of this was his writing).
#2: Batman and Robin #23.1: Two-Face
Peter Tomasi is one of the best writers at DC Comics right now, and in my opinion, his current run on Batman and Robin (which is one of the few books to not change creative teams since the beginning of the New 52) is the best comic featuring Batman currently on the market. Tomasi’s Two-Face story plays with the events of Forever Evil, showing how Two-Face reacts to a world without heroes, and it’s a very interesting reaction. He really shows a great understanding of the dual natures of Two-Face, and it’s the best comic featuring a Batman villain I’ve read all month (and of the 16 out there, I read 10 of them). For what I promise is the last time I’ll do this, you can read further details in my review, which I’m linking here.
#1: Action Comics #23.3: Lex Luthor
There’s definitely some bias here, because Lex Luthor is my favorite supervillain. Though in my defense, I’ve never been terribly fond of Cheetah or Black Hand, and some of my favorites like Sinestro and Joker didn’t make this list, so I’d like to think this is #1 on my list for critical reasons moreso than personal ones. Once again written by Charles Soule, this is a day in the life of Lex Luthor. Specifically, it’s the day in the life of Lex Luthor right before the events of Forever Evil #1, when he’s just gotten out of jail and Superman is missing. The thing that makes this book work is that Soule understands Lex Luthor perfectly. He gets how smart he is, how good he is at business, science, and villainy. He captures the character’s reputation and effect on other people, how he sees the world, and just what a horrible, irredeemable bastard he is, which is what makes Lex such a great villain. And when you combine all of these factors with Soule’s extraordinary writing talent, you get the best read possible about one of the most iconic villains in the DC Universe.
So, if you read any of it, what did you think of Villains Month? Which books were your favorites?