Lois Lane and her team of detectives—not that team of detectives, but the other team of detectives—come face-to-face with harsh realities! Batman and his cave crew come face-to-face with harsh realities! Superman comes face-to-face with harsh realities! In Event Leviathan #5! WARNING: HARSH REALITIES (AND SPOILERS) AHEAD
Lots of dull, annoying dialogue…
If I could sum up Bendis’s signature mark in Event Leviathan, it would be this:
Lots of dull, annoying dialogue…
But I’m repeating myself. And so is he. And that’s a big part of the problem.
I made the observation early on that the mystery of Leviathan’s identity—and long reach—felt secondary to Bendis’s attempt to perform a character study on Lois, Waller, Red Hood, and others. The attempt has been poor, and what isn’t bad has typically been dull or confusing. You get the sense, reading this, that Bendis fancies himself a clever man. I could be reading him wrong, of course, but without any clarifying information, this is the impression, and it isn’t a good one. Authentic character voice is rare; snappy, monophonic lines abound. In this respect, not much has changed in Event Leviathan #5.
…but a much more effective structure
In spite of the usual unenjoyable dialogue, the plot structure actually works quite well this time. In fact, it manages to salvage the whole affair and leave me with an overall positive impression. There is a gradually swelling tension throughout the first half of the book, as Lois’s B-team confronts her with their suspicions. As they pull the thread, the tension continues to rise, and manages to keep on pushing up through the end of the story. So what is #5 getting right that previous installments got wrong?
At its foundation, this issue focuses on the right thing: the mystery. Who is Leviathan? Is Leviathan [insert name here]? Is Leviathan dangerous? There’s a much stronger sense this time that external forces are driving conversation and action, and I find that far more interesting than being sustained by detached dialogue.
The improved structure helps Maleev, too. Because events are in motion, he isn’t treading water quite so much as he was before, and I find it much easier to appreciate his storytelling skills when he actually gets to use them. I’m particularly fond of the opening page:
The layout is a puzzle of panels, but I’m never confused about the reading order. The size and offsets strongly suggest the right order, even though that order is unconventional. Josh Reed’s narration boxes eliminate any lingering confusion, with a very clear, winding path across and down the page. It makes me think of Sting’s song “Seven Days” from his seminal record Ten Summoner’s Tales. It’s in an odd time signature, but the melody never calls attention to the “off” rhythm, so you really only notice if you’re trying to count it out.
Maleev takes a similarly winding path through the following double, but the grid is more rigid, making the reading order a little bit less obvious. Reed spreads a balloon across panels two and three, which helps, but the layout isn’t quite as strong as on page one. I still like it, though.
- You’ve been waiting for the pace to pick up.
- You felt like Maleev was underserved by prior scripts.
- You’re itching to find out who Leviathan is.
Event Leviathan #5 brings us closer to solving the mystery, and the centrality of that mystery is the book’s strongest point. Much of the dialogue still feels dull or off, but the overall effect is nevertheless a positive one. At the very least, I’m not dreading the final issue.