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Wednesday, May 29, 2019 

Times-Record fawns over DC's Year of the Villains and Marvel's Acts of Evil

The Fort-Smith Times-Record sugarcoated the history of crossovers in a piece about DC's Year of the Villain, which does at least point out how this is little more than a rehash of older crossovers, including a very bad one from the mid-90s:
In comics, history not only repeats, but it usually raises the stakes.

Case in point: “The Year of the Villain.” This massive crossover at DC Comics features a major villain making offers to a wide array of supervillains to boost their powers and ... well, I’m not really sure where it’s going, because it just got started May 1 with the 25-cent one-shot “DC’s Year of the Villain Special.”

Some of this should sound familiar to longtime comics fans. Because in 1995, DC launched a massive crossover featuring a major villain offering a wide array of supervillains a deal that usually boosted their powers. It was called “Underworld Unleashed,” and it starred a literal demon from Hell named Neron.

[...] Neron goes on to make deals with a lot of supervillains, and even tempts a number of superheroes. Most, like Batman, the Wally West Flash and the Kyle Rayner Green Lantern, turn him down. But some, like minor hero Blue Devil, make a deal that they ultimately regret.

Because, duh, he’s the devil! Or devil adjacent. Anyway, haven’t any of these guys read “Faust”? Or at least comics books? Because in every story of this kind, making a deal with the devil is like betting against the house — you’re going to lose.
Mainly the audience's money. In hindsight, I'd say Dan Cassidy, Blue Devil extraordinaire, suffered the worst, as his business agent Marla Bloom was not only turned into a sacrificial lamb, but Dan himself asked to become a real devil, rather than at least try to get Marla resurrected.
So a younger version of your humble narrator was rolling his eyes 24 years ago, incredulous that anybody would take Neron’s deal. He was also snickering at Neron’s outfit, a green, yellow and white Spandex atrocity that would look silly on anyone, much less a demon. Also, the younger me was quite certain that whatever happened in “Underworld Unleashed,” it would all eventually be un-done and the status quo returned.

And he was right. Even the Rogues returned to life, after much smiting and girding of loins. It was just a lot of sound and fury, signifying nothing. Which isn’t from the Bible, but it’s Shakespeare, which is close enough.
Umm, IIRC, Marla didn't return to life, and Dan's status may not have changed either. Apparently because he's a minor hero, so they decided nobody would give a damn. In fact, IIRC, Blockbuster remained pretty much the same for a while after, and went on to become the main crimelord of Bludhaven, the city where Nightwing went to reside when Chuck Dixon wrote his solo book. Making Blockbuster a smarter villain is fine and dandy, but they way they got to that point was entirely unnecessary.

But what's really angering in retrospect is the ill-treatment given to Marla and Dan, IMO. And what's additionally laughable about this article is how the writer thinks the new crossover is literally better than the old:
So now comes “Year of the Villain,” which sounds very similar to “Underworld Unleashed” in its broader outlines. But this time I’m not rolling my eyes.

For one thing, it’s been earned. Unlike “Underworld,” which popped up abruptly and left the same way, DC has been building up to “Year of the Villain” in many of its top titles.

In “Batman,” Tom King has been writing a 100-issue Bat-epic that currently has Bane taking over Gotham City from a Dark Knight whose King-engineered trials have severely worn him down. “City of Bane” begins in “Batman” #75 in July.

In Brian Michael Bendis’ “Superman” and “Action Comics,” an organization created by Grant Morrison for Bat-books has been sneaking around Metropolis for purposes yet unknown. But what seems to be the case is that Leviathan, a secret organization, is setting about destroying DC’s other secret organizations, like Spyral, Checkmate and so forth. It has already made an offer to Batgirl (in the “Villains” special) that has ominous implications. And rumor has it that Jimmy Olsen and Lois Lane will also be in their hands soon. These events will result in a “Leviathan” miniseries in June, and 12-issue maxiseries starring Lois and Jimmy in July.

[...] And most importantly, in Scott Snyder’s “Justice League” the team has breached the Source Wall, releasing ancient chaos on the universe, including an elder god named Perpetua, while simultaneously re-establishing the Legion of Doom, and revealing that Martians and humans — and Martian Manhunter and Lex Luthor — share forgotten links.

All of these elements are coming together in TYOTV, but the last one is taking center stage. Luthor — who appeared to commit suicide in “Year of the Villain” Special — is (spoiler) not permanently dead. In fact (more spoilers) he will be resurrected as part-Martian, and as Perpetua’s right-hand man. Their goal is (I think) to re-write the universe, a lot nastier than it is now.

So now it’s Lex Luthor who will be bargaining with a lot of villains (and probably some heroes) to boost their powers, if they’ll do him one eensy-teensy favor and help him overwrite reality. This is serious business, because today’s Luthor is a far cry from the mad scientist who was angry at Superman because he lost his hair. The modern version is incalculably dangerous, and this time I don’t think the Reset Button will be hit. This time, I think whatever happens will stick.

Of course, I could be wrong. But I’ll be reading “Year of the Villain” avidly as it proceeds. July brings Luthor’s “The Offer” in a variety of titles. August is named “Dark Gifts” for what Luthor will bestow. September is named “Evil Unleashed,” October is “Doom Rising” and November is “Hostile Takeover.” From the titles you can guess that things are going to get pretty grim, but I’ll say no more.
Wow. A story with connections written by some of the worst writers DC's ever hired, and he actually thinks, all of a sudden, that it's inherently better than Underworld Unleashed? Well, since this is basically a media shill writing this dreck, it probably figures. It also sounds like a rehash of elements from Crisis on Infinite Earths, where the anti-Monitor took to rewriting or overwriting reality, changing DC history so there'd be only one universe for the main superheroes to dwell in, rather than the Earth-One and Earth-Two that were the norm during 1961, when the Flash discovered his Golden Age predecessor's dimension. I also don't like the columnist's hoping how they write this crossover will result in stuff that sticks, recalling he indicated years before he was perfectly fine if what was told in Identity Crisis stuck. Thankfully, it didn't (and we have to hope Heroes in Crisis won't either), but the point is that anybody who thinks something so revolting should stick, no matter how bankrupt it is, is not fit to represent entertainment products.

The article also points to Marvel's rehash of an older crossover:
Meanwhile, Marvel Comics is launching a similar event in its annuals this year. I have no proof that this is their response to “The Year of the Villain,” but history suggests it is. Regardless, “Acts of Evil” will pit various superheroes against bad guys they’ve never faced before.

[...] And wouldn’t you know it, this event has a predecessor as well. In “Acts of Vengeance,” which ran through Marvel titles in late 1989 and early 1990, a mysterious stranger brings a ton of bad guys together and sends them out against superheroes they’d never faced before. The concept is that the heroes’ lack of familiarity will give advantage to the villains.

[...] “Acts of Vengeance” didn’t work out so well for the bad guys, and as to the readers — well, some were entertained. And that’s the point, after all.
The irony is that Acts of Vengeance worked better than a product like Underworld Unleashed because it didn't go miles out of it way to kill off characters under the pretense that, if they were of minor status, everybody would overlook it without a whisper of complaint, nor did it seek to make mockeries out of minor heroes like Blue Devil. And maybe this rehash Marvel's doing won't be any different in its approach, but by now, we're way past the point where crossovers can be effective, since they've become so crowding-out of everything else, it's become impossible to tell a stand-alone story anymore.

The worst part of this is that the press won't complain how these company wide crossovers are only dragging down superhero universes, corporate-owned or otherwise, and that's why the Big Two are still hanging onto an already tired gimmick that should've been retired years ago.

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It's two highly publicized events backed by a lot of money invested in both the actual content as well as the advertisement campaigns. Why the hell wouldn't the paper boast about it (especially when its being paid to do so)?

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