Acts of Vengeance: Meditations on New52 Villains

Last week, the rumors flew about DC Comics' next big thing, around issues 20, focusing on a host of villains making their New52 debut in each of that month's issues, and not against the heroes they are normally associated with. If true, it would be Acts of Vengeance, the Marvel event from late '89-early '90 in which the villains got together and traded foes in an effort to break their streaks of defeat. It was a fun idea that created some unusual match-ups and the difficulty that comes with unfamiliarity for the heroes. And if Villains Month has any kind of similar plot device, well, it's just not going to work.


Because such events are predicated on the world HAVING A HISTORY. If we don't know any of the villains (and they'll all be making their new first appearance), then they have no track record, no streak to break, and they're unfamiliar to everyone. Think of past events that infiltrated every book. Millenium only works if heroes have a supporting cast of long standing, Invasion only works if the universe has developed multiple alien races, War of the Gods if various pantheons have been introduced. All the New52 has really accumulated over the past year is secret organizations which could and should fight it out in a new version of the Janus Directive (if only to weed some of them out).

Could an Act of Vengeance then be done with existing villains? The new DC Universe has very little of those. I counted.

In well over 700 published comics over the past 14 months, only a little over 80 proper villains have made a rebooted appearance, fewer than the number of HEROES introduced in the same amount of time, and that number drops to around 60 if I remove those villains that are either thrown away mentions or visual references (like Amazo or the Riddler) and villains acting as anti-heroes (Deathstroke, Catwoman, the Squad), and many of the them are member of Batman's rogues' gallery. In the interests of full disclosure, those numbers are for rebooted DC villains only. I didn't count Wildstorm (which wouldn't raise the score that high) or new creations (which I'm glad for, it's not all about recapturing former glories).

One of the reasons there are so few singular villains is because the New52 has concentrated on the same threats for far too long and neglected to give its heroes a variety of opponents. The Court of Owls and its Talons took up more than a year of Batman, and barged into other titles in the extended Batman Family. The Rot, a force of nature with only the Arcane family and maybe Solomon Grundy as representatives, has been the main antagonist in Animal Man and Swamp Thing since the very beginning, and is now featured in Frankenstein and, if I'm right, Earth2. The Lantern books, despite having Sinestro and Black Hand, are four titles mostly concerned with the battle between various Lantern Corps (still). Each Corps is a force like the Rot or the Talons, with some variety within the type, but not producing "villains". Otherwise, there's a lot of Marvel-style punch-ups between heroes (Teen Titans vs. Legion Lost vs. Ravagers, for example), and many heroes are content with fighting monsters (Frankenstein, of course, but Superman has done little else in his eponymous book). This all goes well beyond the idea that villains stick around for 6-issue arcs, because then we'd get at least 50 new ones every 6 months, and that hasn't happened.

So yes, the New52 desperately need an injection of new villains - heck, if only to give the Suicide Squad some fodder in the years to come; that book just doesn't make sense without DC history to back up its membership - but I doubt it'll feel anything like Acts of Vengeance or even New Year's Evil (which have various villains a spotlight special). Rather, I'm thinking Underworld Unleashed in which Neron gave various lame villains a new look and powers so that they could go out and finally beat their nemesis. In essence, he rebooted them with icky new designs. Sounds like the New52 to me.


snell said...

Well, soon enough to be able to use all of the Vertigo villains...

Siskoid said...

Which includes what, exactly?

SallyP said...

There are a heck of a lot of perfectly good OLD villains that aren't being used.

Gosh, I miss my Continuity. So...Much.

Andrew said...

Have we seen a new version of Parasite yet? Because I'd be okay with having him debut in Firestorm. Again.

Boosterrific said...

The DCnU has far more shadow government agencies with enigmatic agendas than traditional villains. DC's entire line of comics now seem to feature incredibly powerful people continually confounded by unresolved conspiracy theories. I still can't decide whether that's better or worse than seeing vigilante Batman fighting the mass-murdering Joker for the 2,732nd time.

Siskoid said...

The only Parasite we've had was in Superman Family Adventures and he was the best version of the character I've ever seen.

As for the shadow agencies, it's gotten to the point where it's almost an inside joke with some writers. Did I hear correctly that Human Bomb #1 introduces yet another one?


Blog Archive


5 Things to Like Activities Advice Alien Nation Aliens Say the Darndest Things Alpha Flight Amalgam Ambush Bug Animal Man anime Aquaman Archetypes Archie Heroes Arrowed Asterix Atom Avengers Awards Babylon 5 Batman Battle Shovel Battlestar Galactica Black Canary BnB 2-in1 Books Booster Gold Buffy Canada Captain America Captain Marvel Cat CCGs Charlton Circles of Hell Class Comics Comics Code Approved Conan Contest Cooking Crisis Daredevil Dating Kara Zor-El Dating Lois Lane Dating Lucy Lane Dating Princess Diana DCAU Deadman Dial H Dice Dinosaur Island Dinosaurs Director Profiles Doctor Who Doom Patrol Down the Rabbit Hole Dr. Strange Encyclopedia Fantastic Four Fashion Nightmares Fiasco Films Within Films Flash Flushpoint Foldees French Friday Night Fights Fun with Covers FW Team-Up Galleries Game design Gaming Geekly roundup Geeks Anonymous Geekwear Gimme That Star Trek Godzilla Golden Age Grant Morrison Great Match-Ups of Science Fiction Green Arrow Green Lantern Hawkman Hero Points Podcast Holidays House of Mystery Hulk Human Target Improv Inspiration Intersect Invasion Podcast Iron Man Jack Kirby Jimmy Olsen JLA JSA Judge Dredd K9 the Series Kirby Motivationals Krypto Kung Fu Learning to Fly Legion Letters pages Liveblog Lonely Hearts Podcast Lord of the Rings Machine Man Motivationals Man-Thing Marquee Masters of the Universe Memes Memorable Moments Metal Men Metamorpho Micronauts Millennium Mini-Comics Monday Morning Macking Movies Mr. Terrific Music Nelvana of the Northern Lights Nightmare Fuel Number Ones Obituaries oHOTmu OR NOT? Old52 One Panel Outsiders Panels from Sheena Paper Dolls Play Podcast Polls Questionable Fridays Radio Rants Reaganocomics Recollected Red Bee Red Tornado Reign Retro-Comics Reviews Rom RPGs Sandman Sapphire & Steel Sarah Jane Adventures Saturday Morning Cartoons SBG for Girls Seasons of DWAITAS Secret Origins Podcast Secret Wars SF Shut Up Star Boy Silver Age Siskoid as Editor Siskoid's Mailbox Space 1999 Spectre Spider-Man Spring Cleaning ST non-fiction ST novels: DS9 ST novels: S.C.E. ST novels: The Shat ST novels: TNG ST novels: TOS Star Trek Streaky Suicide Squad Supergirl Superman Supershill Swamp Thing Tales from Earth-Prime Team Horrible Teen Titans That Franchise I Never Talk About The Orville The Prisoner The Thing Then and Now Theory Thor Thursdays of Two Worlds Time Capsule Timeslip Tintin Torchwood Tourist Traps of the Forgotten Realms Toys Turnarounds TV V Waking Life Warehouse 13 Websites What If? Who's This? Whoniverse-B Wikileaked Wonder Woman X-Files X-Men Zero Hour Strikes Zine