DC's Villain Month: Lots of Parental Dysfunction

Comic Books GeekMom
Lobo redesigned by DC Comics, design by Kenneth Rocafort. Appearing in Lobo #1 this month.

New comic release day today sees the second week of DC Comics Villains’ month, an event which sees some of the most famous villains in comics take over their heroes’ titles for the month.

I read thirteen villain themed issues and all I can say that in the DC Universe, bad parenting is definitely likely to lead to a life of murder and mayhem and dead parents can factor into villainy as well. Nine of the issues either featured family members sadly dying or parents who make the father of Hit-Girl look good.

My expectations were that the Batman-themed villains were going to be my favorites because Gotham is my favorite arena of the DC Universe. Instead, it was the titles I was least familiar with that impressed me the most. One major quibble with the credits: it was sometimes difficult to find the writers and artists for the issues. Some of the credits were up front, some later on splash pages and some in the back.

In the order of enjoyment: Lobo #1, Black Manta #1, and Killer Frost #1. The Lobo issue, a replacement for Justice League, is written by Marguerite Bennett with art by Ben Oliver and Cliff Richards. This comic had the most pre-release buzz, as the killer Czarnian has been redesigned from the character that appeared in Superman: The Animated Series. He has a less brutish and sleeker look. The over-the-top-craziness has been replaced by a very cold, calculating killer. This was one of the few villain stories that didn’t try to put forth any sad, extenuating circumstances that led to wrong choices. Lobo is a hired killer and if he’s coming for you, he gets you.

The prison breakout in Black Manta. The level of violence in page 3, with the blood spurting, isn’t unusual in the villain issues. © DC Comics

Black Manta, a replacement for Aquaman, is written by Tony Bedard, art by Claude St. Aubin, with a plot by Geoff Johns. It’s a clear Forever Evil event tie-in, an event in which an evil Justice League from an alternate Earth, the Crime Syndicate, takes over the DC Earth. In this issue, the Syndicate releases many super villains from prison and asking them to join their conquest. Manta, however, has his doubts. He has one mission, and one only, and that’s to kill Aquaman in revenge for his father’s death. It makes not only for a good story but a good look at some of the events around Forever Evil.

Killer Frost, a replacement for Justice League of America, is written by Sterling Gates with art by Derlis Santacruz. It’s a straight out origin story, telling how a scientist became transformed into a monster obsessed with Firestorm. Frost is like a vampire: she needs human heat like a vampire needs human blood. She’s one of the few villains who, if not attacked, would likely have had a normal life.

These are the only issues I’d recommend as one-off stories for those new to DC comics or for those still wanting to jump into DC stories, though, in some cases, the creative team on the villain issues isn’t the creative team on the regular issues.

Trigon #1, Mongul #1, and the two Superman books, Zod #1 and Brainiac #1, add very little new to their previous origins, though Mongul has a nice payoff at the end. Reverse Flash #1 makes it clear that one character beloved by some DC fans definitely doesn’t exist as yet in the new continuity and relies on family dysfunction as a backstory, and Solomon Grundy #1 refers too often to events in Earth-2 that new readers might not be familiar with.

And so we come to the Batman villains: Harley Quinn, Riddler, Mr. Freeze, and Court of Owls. Courts of Owls uses a narrator telling his young daughter about the shadowy organization. I was bored but keep in mind that I hate evil, shadowy conspiracy stories as a rule, especially those that retcon in an organization to Gotham that Batman should have found a long time ago.

Harley Quinn? It was hard to get past the boobalicious corset on the cover, especially compared to Harley’s old, classic costume, and this issue seemed to add very little to her story. Mr. Freeze flashed back to how he was imprisoned and had an ending that was all too predictable. And Riddler? The biggest disappointment yet, with Riddler breaking into the Wayne Building because he can and yet his motivation seemed, well, petty for the Riddler, rather than grandiose.

So, overall, these issues had a few good stories but didn’t convince me to jump onto the series or, yet, into Forever Evil.  But if you’ve yet to give up on DC, despite the doom and gloom even in the issues featuring the heroes, there are some good stories here and there.

Disclaimer: GeekMom received these issues for review.

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