This week: We take a close look at Event Leviathan #3, offering a few semi-educated guesses about the identity of the DCU’s mysterious new villain.
DC Comics is trying something new. The publisher has changed its practices to include diverse new initiatives such as Young Animal (redux!), Wildstorm, Jinxworld, Wonder Comics, Black Label, Ink, and Zoom. As their lineup evolves, it can be hard to figure out what to pick up each week. That’s what our team is here to help with, every Wednesday, with the DC Round-Up!
Note: the reviews below contain spoilers. If you want a quick, spoiler-free buy/pass recommendation on the comics in question, check out the bottom of the article for our final verdict.
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Artist: Alex Maleev
Letterer: Josh Reed
We are now halfway through DC’s big summer mystery spy thriller, Event Leviathan. In a prolonged moment of reckless hubris on Friday afternoon, I decided this meant I should make an elaborate effort to figure out the identity of the titular Leviathan, the masked villain at the center of this whole thing. I decided, essentially, that with three of the six issues on the stands, plus a massive over-sized special issue and a six-month lead-up in Action Comics, I could study hard, and I could solve Leviathan. In the past five days or so, I have re-read the entirety of writer Brian Michael Bendis’ run on Superman, parsing each page for hints and details. If there’s one thing I know for sure, it’s that…I am not a detective.
I didn’t solve Leviathan, and, really, I haven’t moved very far past what writer Brian Michael Bendis said ad nauseam in his promotional interviews for this story (one of which I conducted): everyone involved is a suspect. Bendis has compared the story to the film Deathtrap or to the novels of Agatha Christie, noting the mystery villain is, in fact, someone we already know. The central construction of this story is that Leviathan is taking the DC Universe’s spy and espionage organizations off the board while also capturing heroes and pitching a so-far-unexplained better way to solve the world to them. Leviathan is not necessarily a villain (there have been no bodies), but they disagree with the heroes standard approach to saving the world.
A team of DCU heroes — led by Batman and Lois Lane, and including Green Arrow, Plastic Man, Manhunter, The Question, and Damian Wayne — is trying to figure out who Leviathan is, why Leviathan is, and how to stop Leviathan.
There are periphery spy characters involved here — your Steve Trevors, your Amanda Wallers, and your Sam Lanes — but the bulk of the narrative is spent with our investigative team, and the number of times it’s been pointed out that it could be any of them would seem to indicate that, yes, it actually is one of them. This becomes clear yet again in the pages of Event Leviathan #3, which is told largely in flashback to a fight that just transpired with Jason Todd, who beats our team and makes an effective argument that he’s not the corrupted hero they seek. So then, who is?
Let’s look at our central suspects, starting with….
Lois Lane: There’s a theory that’s been kicking around the DC Round-Up crew for a while now that Leviathan is Lois Lane. It’s not my theory, but it took hold with a friend after The Question started pointing out there were no bodies, making one wonder if Leviathan is even a villain at all. Other evidence for it being Lois includes Steve Trevor (in a shocked daze) accusing her, Metropolis crime queenpin Leone asserting that Lois is one of the most capable/dangerous women in the world, and the fact that Lois is for some reason the only non villain character to get not one but two Year of the Villain variant covers from DC this year (personally, I find the last bit the most convincing…seriously look at these covers and tell me why Lois has one…).
However, Lois’ lacks motive or impetus for doing all of this (although my friend and fellow reviewer Louie Hlad swears it has to do with her space excursion in Superman). Lois also continues to wonder aloud often why Leviathan is targeting spy organizations and not the governments that employ them, which if she was Leviathan, wouldn’t she just target the governments? Finally, making Lois do a not-quite-villain turn (there are no bodies, after all!) would presumably muck up her solo comic. Also, it’s bad optics in 2019 to suggest a potentially immoral agenda (we don’t know yet) for the most famous journalist in your stable of characters. Oh, and Bendis in basically every interview has off-handedly referred to Leviathan as “he,” often noting after that the villain could also be a she, albeit a tad unconvincingly.
Green Arrow: For my money, a far more likely candidate to be Leviathan is Green Arrow, owing to two key pieces of evidence. The first is that Green Arrow’s solo comic ended abruptly with a disillusioned Oliver Queen vowing to no longer be Green Arrow. Yet here he is again as Green Arrow. What happened in between? Last we saw Ollie, he was burned out and upset his protege Roy Harper had been killed during Heroes in Crisis (which, weren’t we all?). Secondly, at the end of Justice League: No Justice last year, Martian Manhunter gave Green Arrow a box capable of stopping the Justice League, should he need to do that, and now Leviathan is using technology nobody has ever seen before. Also, Leviathan’s first strike in Action Comics #1007 was in…Seattle. Interesting.
The major knock against, Ollie, though, is also technology. Oliver, while perhaps the most likely character to think traditional superhero-ing is outdated and in need of a new approach that involves trashing established spy monoliths, has always been a bow and arrow guy. That’s his whole deal. It’s in his name. The advanced tech that has stumped Superman, Batman, and Amanda Waller doesn’t scream Green Arrow. Although, applying that logic eliminates a good many candidates from our list, unless my friend Louie is right about Lois getting help from something in space (I remain a skeptic).
Everyone: One thing that has been firmly established, especially in Event Leviathan #3, is that Leviathan is more than one person. Our last scene here is Leviathan flanked by 13 shrouded figures. Also, we haven’t seen Batgirl since Leviathan made a pitch to her about fixing the world by deviating from usual superhero team-ups. This everyone theory posits that Leviathan is many of our suspects, slowly accruing more and more disillusioned heroes—Batgirl, The Guardian, maybe even Plastic Man—as he builds a movement to…well, to do something we don’t quite understand yet. We know Leviathan wants to tear down pillars of order, but we haven’t seen Leviathan’s plan past that. Really, we’re lacking quite a bit of key info here: why is Leviathan doing this, what exactly is Leviathan’s better way, etc.
Still, those are the three theories I find most worthy of discussion at the halfway point. Also worthy of discussion: how has this story been so far? Well, it’s a mystery thriller, so that’s tough to answer mid-way, what with the end revelation being so important. The fact that discussing the mystery is interesting (at least I think so) to talk about, however, is a mark of success. I didn’t find DC’s other recent mystery, Heroes in Crisis, nearly so compelling. Plus, Alex Maleev’s artwork in this comic has been gorgeous, and it’s been great for fans of his (myself included) to see him depict DC characters that have been off limits while he was working with Bendis at Marvel.
Anyway, how about one more theory for the road?
Maxwell Lord: It’s probably Maxwell Lord.
- Catwoman #14 was just so well done. I’m a fan of both writer Ram V — whose These Savage Shores with Vault Comics is a must-read creator-owned book — and artist Mirka Andolfo. What I really liked most about this issue, however, was that it seemed unafraid to delve into the emotional fallout of the Bat-Cat mis-wedding in a way this book has so far largely avoided.
- The other stand-out DC book for me this week was Batman Universe #2 by Bendis, artist Nick Derrington, and colorist Dave Stewart. This comic compiles two of the original chapters that first appeared in those recent Wal-Mart books, and it’s just such a joy to read. Bendis is having a blast here with Batman much the same way he did in his early issues writing Superman, and Derrington is the perfect artist to work with a writer who’s having that much fun. It’s the type of adventure story that reminds you why you ever got hooked by stories about superheroes however many years ago.
- Finally, Collapser #2 was a strong sophomore edition for a book whose debut I really liked. It’s playing with reality in the special way that only the graphic sequential medium can, not always making clear what’s real while putting a reader’s mind at rest with its engaging action and artwork. In an uneven year for DC Comics, the Young Animal return has so far been a major highlight, even if so far we’ve only gotten two comics.
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