For months, the villains of the DC Universe have been secretly plotting to defeat the heroes defending it for good, and this summer they finally put their plans into motion as revealed in DC's Year of the Villain. The one-shot, written by Brian Michael Bendis, Scott Snyder and James Tynion IV and illustrated by Jim Cheung, Alex Maleev and Francis Manapul, reads less like an anthology-style special and more like an overview of the various antagonists across the DCU while teasing several events both ongoing and upcoming.
With that in mind, even though the special is divided into chapters, it may make the proceedings a little hard to follow for new readers. For those who have been following several or all of the series by the creators involved, however, it includes several major twists and turns that make it an essential read. And with an all-star lineup of talent behind the 25-cent issue, it is more than worth every penny.
The Bendis-scripted story continues the tease for Leviathan, the clandestine organization that has recently been targeting the various intelligence agencies of the DCU with explosive results in Action Comics. The segment has the prolific scribe write several iconic DC characters for the first time and reteams him with his longtime collaborator Maleev.
Similarly, the issue continues the Legion of Doom storyline that has been running through Snyder and Tynion's Justice League run ever since the first issue, with a shocking twist that will certainly have a major impact on the series moving forward.
The one-shot's creative teams embrace the full villainous tapestry of the DCU, though the special does run noticeably heavy on exposition. Much of this comes from attempting to bring readers up to speed on the events leading up to the issue. As a result, it is only partially successful in its goal of greater accessibility, with some of the pacing and flow of the story thrown a bit off. The villains are especially prone to monologues, which can distract from the actual action on the page.
What elevates the material is the artwork across the entire issue. Every single artist brings their A-game to the special, with Maleev's work a particular joy. Seeing the longtime Marvel artist gorgeously rendering the iconic characters of the DCU is a special treat. Similarly, Cheung's work, with colorist Tomeu Morey, feels like a natural extension of their typically wonderful work on Justice League, with Lex Luthor serving as a narrator of sorts overlooking the state of the DCU while plotting his own fiendish agenda.
With the level of talent involved to its bargain price point, DC's Year of the Villain one-shot is an easy recommendation, especially for those invested in following Bendis, Snyder and Tynion's work in the DCU moving forward. While not entirely accessible to new readers, it does set up several major plot points for the creative team's respective series and dramatically changes up the status quo for at least one key character while accelerating the inevitable collision course between the heroes and villains from the DCU. It's also the best place to see several top artists at DC at the height of their visual powers. In short, come for the tease of the DCU feature and low price point, and stay for the breathtaking artwork.
DC's Year of the Villain is written by Brian Michael Bendis, Scott Snyder, and James Tynion IV and illustrated by Jim Cheung, Alex Maleev, and Francis Manapul. It is on sale now from DC Comics.