DC comic’s villains month, spreading across all of titles published in September, has continued the new tradition of an event in September, and introduced new and old villains to readers worldwide.
After reading through several villains month comics, I found that the comic stories fell into a similar pattern. In a first person narration, the Villain either guides the reader through an early point in their lives that defined them, or they guide the reader through a segment of their current plans after the events of Trinity War and Forever Evil.
Something about this pattern created, I thought, a lighter story. As a result, combining three villains month comics might yield a bit more content to write about. What follows are profiles of three villains month comics starring The Outsider, The Riddler, and First Born – a trio of villains who are very close to the Crime Syndicate, only loosely associated with them, and completely separate from them respectively.
Batman #23.2: The Riddler
The Riddler is a villain often overlooked for his lack of physical power. Riddler does without particular villainous advantages; the Joker’s unpredictable insanity; Catwoman’s infatuated influence; Two-Face’s shocking disfigurement. And yet he persists, and in his villains month issue, provides a formidable threat toward the employees of Wayne Enterprises.
The sequential art is effective. Edward’s march into Wayne tower’s inner hallways is a smooth and flowing sequence of panels that aligns with the content of the text boxes. In more intense scenes, the artwork pulls very close to the characters, and stays close to keep the tension up.
Riddler plays long games. The comic begins four years before the events of Forever Evil, and then jumps forward to just hours after the Riddler meets the Crime Syndicate. We then see several insights into the Riddler’s character. He dose not like human contact, and practices meditation exercises to keep his anxiety down.
Themes, Ethics, Values.
The Riddler’s issue is a revenge story. He has singled out a man named George Lesley to attack. Lesley was formerly employed as a warden in Arkham Asylum and tormented the Riddler when he was last incarcerated. Taking revenge against Lesley is the driving theme of the story. A protest in front of Wayne Enterprises might echo the 99 percent movement. The Riddler admits he arranged the flash mob himself – it’s an artificial protest and not a strong theme.
Wonder Woman #23.3: First Born
First Born stands out from other villains month comics as his issue is consistent with already published Wonder Woman graphic novels, and does not use a first persona narrative to tell the comic story. Instead, Apollo consults an oracle about who the First Born is, and what he has been through in his lifetime.
There are several effective panel arrangements, strong colours, and a two-page artwork of First Born standing on top of an African elephant, and wearing a crown made of bones. Close to the end of the comic, A tidal wave sweeps across a mountain – the grandiose approach to the artwork fits well with the gloomy spectacle of First Born’s back-story.
First Born now has a place in the DC universe, occupying the same space as characters like Vandal Savage, Pandora, and the Spectre. They are long-lived, and unstoppably violent. As the first son of Greek gods Zeus and Hera, First Born ties the DC universe into mythology, and this issue builds a stronger bridge between the characters.
Themes, Ethics, Values.
Family conflict lies at the centre of the comic – First Born fighting with his father Zeus, and now clashing with Apollo, his brother. First Born is punished terribly for attempting to attack his family on Mount Olympus. However, First Born is not punished for committing vast acts of murder and warfare in the ancient world. The set of ethics here are that there is one set of laws for humans, and another for gods. When it comes to human affairs, he is stronger, and more powerful than anyone else, and therefore cannot be charged for his crimes. Unless First Born attacks the gods, there is no punishment or justice.
Justice League #23.4: Secret Society
On Earth 3, everyone carries a weapon. A police force makes a cursory and light show of force. In Gotham City, the real power in charge is Owlman, who works with The Outsider to keep civilians controlled, and behaving in ways that suit them. This story is told from The Outsider’s perspective. He is Alfred Pennyworth from another world. Unlike the venerable retainer from the mainstream DC Universe, this Alfred keeps secrets. In his narration (from the first person again) The Outsider describes to the readers several secrets about his relationship to Owlman, which he cannot reveal.
While the comic begins with a great drawing of the impressively sinister Owlman jumping from the shadows, art in the second half of the comics is not as strong as I would expect from a Justice League comic. Shadows are used effectively to cover characters, and show how literally dark the Gotham City of Universe number three is. A page showing the faces of The Outsider’s Secret Society of Supervillains has problems with composition – the faces look incomplete.
The Outsider and Owlman are tracking down the Joker of Earth 3. Dick Grayson – Nightwing on mainstream Earth – is called Talon on this Earth. Whether this fits into the Court of Owl’s structure introduced in New 52 Batman graphic novels is unclear. The Outsider charts his journey from Earth 3 to the mainstream DC universe. His concern for Owlman is paramount in his plans.
Themes, Ethics, Values.
The value here is control. The Outsider comments often about how important control and taking charge are to him. He is somewhat of a power behind the throne for Owlman. It’s worth questioning who is making the decisions in the Crime Syndicate. Is it The Outsider, or the Owlman? There is a theme of parenting that could possibly emerge in subsequent issues of Forever Evil – If the Outsider is like a parent for Owlman, is he fostering him, or controlling him?
A bit more on Villains Month
What this month has showcased are a series of sometimes insightful portraits of DC universe villains. Recruiting well known characters, which audiences might recognise from other media, might encourage new readers to investigate new and old DC graphic novels. Apart from a jumping on point, villains month might give creative teams a chance to marshal their energy and time, and build new stories for the new year.