When was the last time I had a super bitchy review about how terrible something was? It feels like it’s been a while. I know it hasn’t been, but I think I grew accustomed to lambasting books bi-weekly thanks to Tom King’s Batman that going more than a month without doing so feels weird. I mean, look, I’m not purposely going into this looking to trash books, but DC has been struggling to tell a cohesive, engaging story that actually feels as though it has any worth for some time now (give or a take a few titles – most of which are Black Label and aren’t even in continuity). And I’m sorry, but if I don’t think something is good, I’m going to be honest. Perhaps even a little harsh. But hell, the creative talent and editors can’t seem to get their shit together to actually do their job well, and then, for whatever reason, still expect to be praised because they did something, so why should I hold back how I really feel? I mean, the books not very entertaining, so I might as well make my review entertaining. Right?
Anyway, all of this to say that one of those bitchy reviews is coming up if you couldn’t already tell.
Oh, where to start. Year of the Villain has been a mess. That’s the kindest way I can put it. So much of what Year of the Villain has delivered reminds me of the awful, weird, desperate crap that comics were doing in the 90’s. It’s just not good. I was completely onboard throughout Justice League as Apex Lex sought to revive Perpetua. I thought together they made a great threat. I loved the idea of doom giving Perpetua power. She legitimately seemed unstoppable. But then things got weird, and Lex started granting people powers, titles changed directions, and everything kind of went to crap while also losing focus on the real, true threat.
In addition to this, there’s been no cohesion between these Year of the Villain stories. And I don’t mean “no cohesion” as a reference to the stories being mostly “standalone.” No, I mean, these stories and titles have often completely contradicted one another… I mean… Come on. I don’t think it’s asking too much to expect a little effort.
Anyway, we have Apex Lex looking to destroy/rule the earth with Perpetua. But then we also have the Batman Who Laughs who is looking to destroy/rule the earth by infecting it with dark matter so that it mirrors his earth from the dark multiverse. And then, we have Leviathan over in Action Comics/ Leviathan Dawn acting like he’s actually the big bad of the DC Universe, but we’ll just pretend like that doesn’t exist because that’s exactly what this book is doing, so why not?
As I was saying, the only two “big bads” that matter here are Apex Lex and the Batman Who Laughs. They’re both trying to off each other because they both need to be the only mustache-twirlingly evil… umm… evil, and they can’t possibly let the other follow-through on their plan.
So, you’ve got the Batman Who Laughs and he’s infected key heroes in hopes of using them to stop our favorite heroes and infect the remainder of the world. Unfortunately, Batman and Superman kind of whipped their butts on their own in Batman/ Superman, so this all feels a little odd and begs the question of why the infected haven’t been stopped permanently.
But you also have Apex Lex who granted all of these villains enhanced powers, and he was using them, plus the emotion of doom to turn the tides of the world in Perpetua’s favor. Unfortunately, Apex Lex was also smacked down by the Justice League, and his enhanced villains were all smacked down in various titles as well, so… again, this all feels a bit weird and out of place.
Despite both factions essentially losing to our heroes in one way or another, they’ve now turned their targets to one another to determine who is the biggest loser. They’re both pretty skinny, but I’m sure someone will lose, at least, one pound.
Weight. I mean, wait. Wrong “biggest loser.” Let me get back on track.
This feud has led to a war between the Batman Who Laughs and Apex Lex that’s carried on for a few issues now, as both of them have run rampant on the earth since none of our heroes are around to…
Wait a second.
Where the hell is the Justice League in all of this and why aren’t they interfering?
Remember when I said no cohesion? Yeah… Prime example.
Alright, let me get serious for a second. While the sheer lack of planning for this “event” is infuriating, the issue itself doesn’t really have much to offer. When we left off, infected Gordon was taken to the Watch Tower. Apex Lex was going to go after him to get a sample of blood, but found that he’d infected everyone else on the Watch Tower (essentially the Titans and a few others – none of the actual Justice League). This leads to a brawl before the Joker rescues Lex, because…. Well, just because. Run with it. You’ve got Mercy, and Lex sent her to get Joker, and he’s here now.
We get tons of exposition, and even more dialogue that’s painstakingly overwritten – all of it informs us of how terrible and bad everything is, as well as how big and important this event is. And, yet, I just can’t seem to care. Maybe it has to do with the fact that it’s poorly planned and we’ve already watched our heroes mop the floor with both factions? Just a hunch.
In all of this though, there was one thing that I actually enjoyed. The Joker. I know I’ve ragged on Tynion’s script, but I really enjoyed his take on Joker a lot! In fact, it was written so well that I easily heard Mark Hamill’s voice while reading the book. I loved the tongue-in-cheek dialogue he had for him, and I loved that he had the Joker call out Lex – as well as this entire plan – as being rather pointless and stupid. It actually makes me wonder if Tynion kind of feels the same way and just pushing through Hell Arisen much in the way that I’m pushing through this review.
Other than that, this is a pass.
Steve Epting and Javier Fernandez deliver art for the issue, and, for the most part, it’s solid. The earlier pages didn’t really catch my attention, but they weren’t bad by any means. There are some pages that are spectacular though! I absolutely loved it when Lex started exploring Jokers mind! The layout of this page, and how the art team managed to incorporate so much context and details is extremely creative. I mean, seriously… Look at this page!
Other than that, the remainder of the books is mostly grandstanding and monologuing, so visually it is a bit boring. Epting and Fernandez do as much as the can to provide striking panels, but when the script falls short as this one does, then the art can only do so much to save it.
- It’s an event thing that impacts all books but is completely standalone… or something like that.
- Characters ramble incessantly.
- It’s evil grandstanding, upon evil grandstanding, upon evil grandstanding.
- But hey! The Joker is good, and that page I featured above is excellent!
- I don’t know. I give up.
I’m starting to feel as though talent at the DC office are having pity parties over which creator actually has the current big bad for the DC Universe, and the result of that is this nonsense. Add in the fact that Hell Arisen is extremely overwritten and desperately screams, “This book is big! No, really! It matters! IT MATTERS!!!” when in reality I just can’t bring myself to care because DC can’t bring themselves to plan properly.