Harley Quinn is here to host the annual villain awards, a spectacular event featuring all of your favorite– and maybe not so favorite– villains from across DC comics! This one is by and for the fans, featuring winners you all voted for, so let’s see who comes out on top shall we?
I’m going to get straight to the point: there’s not a lot of substance to this title plot wise. There is some plot, but it takes a backseat to the book’s main goal: being a vehicle to share the results of DC’s Villain of the Year polling. It does it in a splendidly wrapped package that’s highly entertaining, but this book is little more than that. It exists for laughs, villain spotlights, and that sweet sweet gratification of seeing the results of who you voted for.
The host for the awards is Harley Quinn, and honestly I wouldn’t have any other villain do the job. She’s the perfect choice to head things up, with the book being full of fourth wall breaking, satire, and making fun of all those things fans like to joke about. She leads the readers and villains through the Villain of the Year Awards, announcing each new segment, making jokes, and changing outfits regularly.
Her outfit changes are a lot of fun. Each one is an homage to a different famous outfit from an awards ceremony like the Emmys or Oscars. I think just about every reader will recognize at least one of these iconic outfits, and if not, I spent an unreasonable amount of time looking up and matching (most of) them to their real life counterparts, so you’re welcome. But honestly, this detail was so much fun and I loved how much care Mike Norton put into the outfits, they’re all distinctly Harley and also easy to discern for what they’re based off of.
The actual plot follows Flamingo as he threatens the party while hiding menacingly above it, surrounded by TNT, waiting for the perfect moment to blow them all up. He’s been slighted one too many times by the villains around him, and despite being up for an award time and again he hasn’t won. It’s not the most surprising or original of reasons, but his justification is relatable. I mean, who hasn’t felt the sting of betrayal when passed up for an award? There’s also some genuinely funny moments with him as we see what awards he’s lost and to whom. Like, Solomon Grundy winning best dressed for his Fierce shirt, that’s funny no matter who you are.
As for the award ceremony itself, it’s well written. I don’t make a habit of watching many awards shows, but the few I have seen have gone a lot like what we see in the pages of this book. It’s got everything from an “in memoriam” segment to Harley cracking jokes about each nominee. The story is literally stuffed with hilarious moments. A lot of the jokes centered around the actual awards are dependent on what you’ve read, and how you’ve felt about recent comics, but if you’ve been keeping up with things at least minimally you’ll get a kick out of at lot of these. I particularly loved the jokes relating to the moral justification award. Flashpoint Batman being a nominee for his “commitment to helicopter parenting” and Leviathan’s dislike of acronyms were perfect. I also love a good joke aimed at characters not staying dead, so the “In memoriam” segment was spot on for me.
Something I really appreciate about this book is just how many details are in it. I’ve talked about Harley’s outfit changes, but less obvious is the fact that in almost every single shot featuring characters in the background those villains are different and varied from the ones before. Norton packs so many different characters in that I couldn’t begin to name them all and I applaud him for it. That’s a lot of characters to draw and include, and he could have easily used less. Their inclusion both gives the award ceremony a feeling of being full, and gives the eagle eyed reader a chance to see some old favs who’ve been absent from comics recently. Added to that, everyone is in black tie attire (or at the very least a bow tie) and easily recognizable. This is mostly done by pairing their uniforms with suits, and it makes for some utterly hilarious panels, like Bane’s torn off sleeves or Red Hood’s hood and mask paired with a nice suit. It’s a nice touch that makes this really feel like an event people cared about, and not simply cameos for the sake of cameos.
Even as outrageously fun as this book is, I can’t help but wish it did a little more. I wasn’t expecting any real plot progression or character changes, but I feel like an opportunity was wasted to do something interesting with some of these characters. Take Flamingo: as delighted as I was to see him show up after being absent from comics for a while, I didn’t feel like the story really added to his mythos at all. His vow of silence could have been interesting, but it was introduced too late and so quickly done away with it might as well have not been a factor at all. I debated with myself for a while at choosing to pick at this, but in light of the fact that this book is essentially jokes and the results of a poll, I’d have liked to have seen something substantial in it. When you’re asking readers to pay five dollars for something that’s all style and no substance it feels like a steep price tag, even if it’s funny.
Last but not least, if you’re curious about where all the other villains who were nominated landed ranking wise, the issue answers that question for you. One of the last pages is dedicated to the Villain of the Year and displays a box showing awards and rankings. I’m glad they chose to include the list, as it’s interesting to see who landed where based on user votes. DC has a pretty shaky history with user based choices, and it’s nice to see them encouraging audience participation in something fun like this.
- You enjoy a good roast of current comic events
- You want something that’s funny, light, and requires nothing of you
- The book is one great joke after another, it’s worth at least one read (if not a few more just to cheer you up)
As another in a long line of tie ins to DC’s Year of the Villain event, I found this book to be the most fun out of them all. Its biting humor and unrepentant jabs at current comics events and societal norms made it something I thoroughly enjoyed reading. It could have done more, but it’s solid in its execution for what it is: an awards show styled issue where DC’s most vital villains come together to celebrate themselves.
DISCLAIMER: DC Comics provided Batman News with a copy of this comic for the purpose of this review.