15 February 2017

Faster than a DC Bullet: Project Crisis!, Part LXIII: The New 52 Villains Omnibus

Comic hardcover, 1168 pages
Published 2013 (contents: 2013)
Borrowed from the library
Read November 2016
DC Comics: The New 52 Villains Omnibus
by Greg Pak, Paulo Siquiera, Netho Diaz, Marguerite Bennett, Ben Oliver, Cliff Richards, China Miéville, Mateus Santolauco, Carla Berrocal, Riccardo Burchielli, Liam Sharp, Jock, Tula Lotay, Marley Zarcone, Brendan McCarthy, Emma Rids, Emi Lenox, Jeff Lemire, Frazier Irving, David Lapham, Carmen Carnero, Sloane Leong, Kelsey Wroten, Michelle Faran, Annie Wu, Zak Smith, Alberto Ponticelli, Dan Green, Geoff Johns, Sterling Gates, Manuel Garcia, Rob Hunter, Matt Kindt, Sam Basri, Keith Champagne, Bit, Derlis Santacruz, Tom DeFalco, Chad Hardin, Edgar Salazar, Ann Nocenti, Dan DiDio, Fabrizio Fiorentino, Tom Derenick, Philip Tan, Jason Paz, Tony Bedard, Geraldo Borges, Ruy José, Paul Levitz, Yildiray Cinar, Aaron Lopresti, Art Thibert, Brian Buccellato, Chris Batista, Tom Nguyen, Francis Manapul, Scott Hepburn, Andrea Sorrentino, Charles Soule, Jesús Saiz, Marv Wolfman, Cafu, Corey May, Dooma Wendschuh, Moritat, Angel Unzueta, Robson Rocha, John Ostrander, Victor Ibañez, Brian Azzarello, Michael Alan Nelson, Mike Hawthorne, Ken Lashley, Raymund Bermudez, Sholly Fisch, Jeff Johnson, Andy Smith, Steve Pugh, Pascal Alixe, Scott Lobdell, Dan Jurgens, Ray McCarthy, Aaron Kuder, Brett Booth, Norm Rapmund, Robert Venditti, Rags Morales, Cam Smith, Jim Starlin, Howard Porter, Stefano Landini, Dale Eaglesham, Andy Kubert, Andy Clarke, Scott Snyder, Ray Fawkes, Jeremy Haun, Frank Tieri, Christian Duce, Peter J. Tomasi, Graham Nolan, Guillem March, James Tynion IV, Jorge Lucas, Tim Seeley, Francis Portela, Gail Simone, Justin Gray, Jimmy Palmiotti, Jason Masters, John Layman, Georges Jeanty, Derek Fridolfs, Javier Pina, Neil Googe, Szymon Kudranski, Scot Eaton & Jaime Mendoza

The Book as a Whole
This book ties into Forever Evil, an event where the Crime Syndicate (i.e., the Evil Justice League) temporarily took over the Earth. As a result, most of DC's monthly titles were "taken over" by supervillains-- like, Action Comics #23.2 featured General Zod. Yes, there were decimals in the numbering. Some series were taken over four times, some just once. One presumes this was in proportion to popularity; it's easier to get someone to buy four extra issues of Action Comics than of Swamp Thing. These vary in type: some show what the villain in question was doing during Forever Evil, some show random other adventures of the villain, some show the origin story of the villain, some do more than one. I'd guess that more than half aren't even stories, but just set-up: leading into Forever Evil itself, or a Forever Evil spin-off, or just leading into a forthcoming issue of an ongoing where said villain is going to turn up. Like when I reviewed The New 52 omnibus, I'm going to tackle each individual grouping of issues, since there are too many to look at each on its own.

That's the kind of casual, fun attitude I like my international spies to have.
from Justice League of America vol. 3 #7.3 (script by Tom DeFalco, art by Chad Hardin)
Justice League (Darkseid, Lobo, Dial E, Secret Society, Deadshot, Killer Frost, Shadow Thief, Black Adam, the Creeper, Eclipso, Black Manta, Ocean Master, Desaad, Solomon Grundy, Grodd, Reverse-Flash, the Rogues, Count Vertigo, Arcane, Trigon, Deathstroke, the Cheetah, First Born)
If I learned anything from this section, it's how few people should be allowed to touch the New Gods: to stories featuring Darkseid and Desaad are so mundane as to completely miss the point of the characters. Darkseid doesn't need an origin story, he's "the Tiger-Force at the core of all things! When you cry out in your dreams-- it is Darkseid that you see!" How can such a character have a youth and a backstory? It makes him mundane to give him a motivation, and Darkseid should never be mundane.

The stories that stuck out to me positively in this section were the Dial E one-- I didn't get it, but it sure was imaginative, with a battle of constantly transforming hero and villain, accompanied by constantly changing art style-- and the Shadow Thief one. I'd never even heard of this character, but this was surprisingly interesting and nuanced origin for her, accompanied by some great art. On the other hand, I wish Geoff Johns would leave Black Adam well alone and give someone else a chance with him; surely, ten years of dominating the character's depiction is enough.

I just love the idea of sound effect for being fired.
from Superman vol. 3 #23.4 (script and art by Aaron Kuder)
Superman (Cyborg Superman, Zod, Lex Luthor, Metallo, Bizarro, Brainiac, H'el, Parasite, Doomsday)
Superman villains with links to Krypton get old fast, because Krypton gets old fast. I want to see Superman blazing a light for the future, not fighting the ghosts of his past. So Cyborg Superman or Zod or H'el or Doomsday alone might have been fine, but reading all four in quick succession was dull-- I was dead tired of seeing Jor-El pontificate shit. Most everything here ranged from boring to incomprehensible, but I was surprised to enjoy the Parasite story, I guess because of Aaron Kuder's unification of art and story, and the Lex Luthor tale was a decent example of its genre, even if dealing with old ground (some beats were straight out of Brian Azzarello's old Lex Luthor mini).

This story is basically just whole-page panel upon whole-page panel of exposition with no motivation to care.
from Green Lantern vol. 5 #23.1 (script by Robert Venditti, art by Rags Morales & Cam Smith)
Green Lantern (Relic, Mongul, Black Hand, Sinestro)
Evidence continues to mount for my thesis that the more Geoff Johns Green Lantern comics I read, the less I want to read them all. Mongul is still dumb, the Sinestro comic was dull, and the two new-to-me villains were completely uninteresting.

Lol, poor Scarecrow.
from Detective Comics vol. 2 #23.2 (script by Peter J. Tomasi, art by Szymon Kudranski)
Batman (the Joker, the Riddler, the Penguin, Bane, Two-Face, the Court of Owls, Ra's al Ghul and the League of Assassins, Killer Croc, the Ventriloquist, Mr. Freeze, Clayface, the Joker's Daughter, Poison Ivy, Harley Quinn, the Scarecrow, Man-Bat)
These stories are more dependent on the Forever Evil set-up than most in this book, making them less interesting than most. Many of them have Batman's villains being given chunks of Gotham city to control, but none really do anything interesting with it. I did like the Riddler story, which captured the genuine inquisitiveness I like about the character, and the cameo of the Riddler in the largely incomprehensible Scarecrow tale was another high point. But so many of these were warmed-over origin stories or pointless brutality or both-- the Ventriloquist and Harley Quinn and Joker's Daughter stories were particularly bad on this point. (Especially the Joker's Daughter... ugh.) I also enjoyed the Killer Croc story for him making his own subterranean community he genuinely seemed to care about.

The State of Villainy
Speaking of "pointless brutality," I get that these are all villains... but do they have to be so dark? So many of them are ridiculous murder machines, killing hundreds at a stroke, which makes DC's heroes look awful for not being able to catch them. So many have deep traumas in their childhoods, especially abuse, in a way that stops being explanatory and starts just becoming lazy. Obviously villains are going to do bad things, but so many DC villains are just sadists who are excessively violent, and the sameness begins to get dull after a while. Trying to make me take all of your villains seriously eventually makes me take none of them seriously. What I wouldn't give for a Condiment King or a Wurstwaffe among this bunch. Or even many of these same characters as they existed in the 1980s, before they became murder machines.

Next Week: We've seen how the New 52 began, now it's time to witness its demise, five years later in Futures End!

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