Sunday, January 11, 2009

The old edict, 'a superhero is only as good as it's villains,' might be out dated in this writer-centric era of characterization, but the underlying point remains. The ebb and flow of villains as guests in their counterpart's titles frees them of the handicap of routine, often instilling their saga with a purity unattainable to starring characters who sustain multiple series.

Since their mass unionization in the aftermath of Identity Crisis; the villains of the DC Universe have put on a veritable parade of appearances, operating under variations of the "Society" banner, firmly established during Infinite Crisis by Alexander Luthor Jr.

Now DC are literally casting the spotlight onto individual villains through a series of graphically striking covers under the "Faces of Evil" banner. To the best of my knowledge the FoE brand isn't actually building toward any kind of unified vision, (like Marvel's Dark Reign), but it does draw attention to the interesting phenomenon of evil characters that have been the undercurrent of many recent series; including Final Crisis.

Today we have gathered a small catalogue of previous reviews showcasing the villains of the DC Universe. For a little extra bang, some of the characters starring in said issues, whose journeys continue to be some of the most intriguing in the DC line-up!

Black Adam (Teth-Adam)
First Appearance: [Marvel Family #1]
Year One: [1945] Group Affiliation: [NA]
Cumulative Rank: [#14] Win Percentage: [85.71%]
2006: [DNR] 2007: [#8] 2008: [#227]

Captain Marvel's fallen Egyptian predecessor was once his dark nemesis, but after returning from obscurity in the Goyer/Johns JSA revival, the character gained a whole new layer of complexity. Walking a fine line between villain and hero, Adam's path went on to include fostering an entire group of JSA rebels, who he led in a coup against the tyrants of his native Kahndaq, during Black Reign. Adam's tenure as replacement ruler would garner mixed results, culminating in a world war scenario upon the death of his adopted family, and his subsequent genocidal rampage in pursuit of their killers, Azraez and the Horsemen of Apokolips.

Comparisons to Marvel's pointy-eared Sub-Mariner are ultimately very fair, but as Marvel left that particular character stagnant, DC earned full credit for taking Black Adam much farther, and in different directions. He returns to the spotlight in JSA once more having apparently succeeded in his long running mission to resurrect his fallen love, Isis.

Cheetah (Dr. Barbara Ann Minerva)
First Appearance: [Wonder Woman #6]
Year One: [1987] Group Affiliation: [The Society]
Cumulative Rank: [#310] Win Percentage: [25%]
2006: [DNR] 2007: [#98] 2008: [#373]

As the modern age's best known inheritor to Priscilla Rich's mantle as Wonder Woman's arch-foe, Barbara Minerva needs no introduction. Taking the Cheetah concept to a literal end, she not only presents a far more striking visual, but also a more suitable physical opponent for a modern Amazon warrior! It hasn't just been Wonder Woman that's been in the sights of the feline foe, however. Her story has been made especially intriguing during her tenure with The Society, adding to circumstances that have made for her enemies in the likes of Flash and Catwoman. Making her tale even more interesting -- her role as one of the last free-roaming rebels in a world gripped by the Anti-Life Equation, in Final Crisis.

Dr. Light (Dr. Arthur Light)
First Appearance: [Justice League of America #12]
Year One: [1962] Group Affiliation: [The Society]
Cumulative Rank: [#90] Win Percentage: [40%]
2006: [DNR] 2007: [#95] 2008: [#162]

Everything changed for the DCU when Identity Crisis revealed hiddens sins from the past. Overshadowed by the League's tampering with the mental faculties of villains was the heinous crimes of Dr. Light, who suffered such a treatment after sexually assaulting Sue Dibny - civilian wife of Elongated Man. The events of the series returned to the bumbling Teen Titans villain both his memories and lethality, leading to a march across the DC landscape that reestablished him as a power player in the darkest corners of the villain world. For far too long he evaded punishment for his despicable crimes, but not even his allegiance to New Gods could save him from the (overdue) vengeful wrath of The Spectre.

Hush (Dr. Thomas Elliot)
First Appearance: [Batman #609]
Year One: [2002] Group Affiliation: [NA]
Cumulative Rank: [#678] Win Percentage: [0%]
2006: [DNR] 2007: [DNR] 2008: [#225]

Beginning his criminal career as a shallow foil to the Batman; Hush's story has been an easy one to follow, weaving through Gotham's criminal underworld as Thomas Elliot finds who he truly is as Hush. After manipulating Batman's deadliest enemies in his first encounter, the villain continues to seek aid from a community dedicated to the same goal as he -- the destruction of Batman/Bruce Wayne. Of course, as one of the few villains to know the Dark Knight's alter-ego, he makes his attacks close to the heart, including the abduction of Catwoman and life-threatening surgery to remove said organ.

Having undergone surgery to reconstruct his face to resemble Bruce Wayne himself, Elliot reemerges in a world without a Batman to usurp the fortunes of the caped crusader's absent alter-ego. In his brief time in Gotham, however, he has made many enemies, and right at the top of the list is a woman willing to go to greater lengths than Batman ever was -- Catwoman!

Solomon Grundy (Cyrus Gold)
First Appearance: [All-American Comics #61]
Year One: [1944] Group Affiliation: [NA]
Cumulative Rank: [#684] Win Percentage: [0%]
2006: [DNR] 2007: [#324] 2008: [#237]

Despite a brief run-in with the Justice League as an intelligent strategist, Solomon Grundy's appeal isn't routed in any particular tale. Rather, it's his constant resurrections, and oft times meaningless encounters with heroes, that make him such an intriguing figure to follow. Slightly mysterious in his origins, Grundy gives so very little away, resembling our other featured characters in their path of sporradic appearances, but with far less direction. Direction that is about to be funded by the Phantom Stranger and Green Lantern as they attempt to help Grundy cure himself of the curse that grants him eternal life.

Superboy-Prime (Kal-El)
First Appearance: [DC Comics Presents #87]
Year One: [1985] Group Affiliation: [Legion of Supervillains]
Cumulative Rank: [#73] Win Percentage: [100%]
2006: [DNR] 2007: [DNR] 2008: [#26]

One of the heroes of the Crisis on Infinite Earths -- Superboy-Prime's fixation with worlds rooted in DC's Silver Age made him the perfect cypher for unruly fans prone to unreasonable outbursts. Upon returning from a pocket dimension of unreality, from where he and survivors from the Crisis watched on, Prime throws in with an attempt to destroy our universe in the hopes of remaking the old one(s). The failure of Alexander Luthor Jr's plot in Infinite Crisis left Superboy-Prime to continue one inlgorious tantrum spread across the entire universe! After escaping imprisonment from both the Flashes and Guardians, Prime hooked up with the Sinestro Corps, just to spread a little carnage before bouncing around the universes and finding himself in the thirty-first century as a supreme emmisary of evil. Before leading the Legion of Supervillains, however, Prime's greatest act of evil might just have been inadvertently sponsoring the birth of a plague upon the galaxy -- the Black Lantern Corps!

Infinite Crisis #1 (December 2005)
"Infinite Crisis" Johns/Jiminez

The world is in crisis, and the heroes are divided to fall, while the villains are united in a way never before seen.
The Justice League is falling apart at the seams, struggling to recover from events such as Wonder Woman's brutal execution of the traitorous Maxwell Lord, where she very publicly snapped his neck; and the death of Firestorm.

Heroes such as the members of Uncle Sam's Freedom Fighters do their best to pick-up the slack, but with a united front of evil willing to cross any lines, it becomes more difficult than ever.

Having received information regarding a transmission between Silver Ghost and Mirror Master; Uncle Sam leads his Freedom Fighters to a seemingly abandoned refinery where they believe the supervillains are organizing weapons for terrorist activity. Unfortunately for them, Uncle Sam's suspicions prove valid. Now the team need not only put a stop to evil, but also fight to survive.

Batman #647 (January 2006)
"The Away Team" Winick/Mahnke

It began when a man called Hush set into motion events that would throw the Dark Knight's life into chaos, as his foes were arranged like game pieces in formation against him.

Hush would later be revealed to be Bruce Wayne's childhood friend, Thomas Elliot, but betrayal would have two faces.

Orchestrated to disorientate the Batman further; Clayface masquaraded as the deceased Robin, Jason Todd.
When a new face in Gotham going by the Red Hood moniker, Joker's one-time alias, began stalking the streets, Batman's fears would be realised.

Alive once more by means unknown, Jason Todd began fighting a fatal one-man war against the criminals of Gotham, organizing his own sense of order.
When the villains united with Gotham's new boss, Black Mask, Jason Todd had for him one mighty enemy in the shape of The Society.

Infinite Crisis #2 (January 2006)
"The Survivors" Johns/Jiminez

Long ago there was a crisis that threatened existence across dimensions. The champions of the multiple Earths opposed the existential threat, and through their triumph came a rebirth of reality, and a merged existence.

A select few survivors from worlds before the crisis were able to escape to a life exclusive to the redefined reality that was unfolding, some infiltrating the new central Earth with no memory of all that once was.

They were the likes of Powergirl and Psycho-Pirate, and they integrated into their new lives well, but such was not so for the refugees in non-space. Trapped in the crystaline universe they had made for themselves, they were forced to watch as life evolved in a very different, darker way, and their ideals were betrayed. Able to take it no more, these super forces take full advantage of unfolding instabilities, and reemerge to shape the worlds again...

Green Lantern #25 (January 2008)
"Birth of the Black Lantern" Johns/Reis

The Anti-Monitor - a creature of immense power that once sought to destroy the multiverse - joins Sinestro in creating a new Corps of agents, with the intent to use them as heralds of his conquest over the positive realm. Harnessing the yellow power rings of Qward, the Sinestro Corps operate on a design of fear, using it to control their yellow energy the same way the Lanterns us willpower.

Tricked into believing the Sinestro Corps were to attack Oa, the designates of Sector 2814 soon find themselves four against an army, as the Anti-Monitor and his heralds emerge in the Milky Way. They launch their attack on Earth, but the rest of the Green Lanterns, along with heroes native to the planet, soon join the war. The Justice League, Justice Society, Titans, and more, rally to join the Green Lantern Corps in a stand against a force determined to seek the destruction of all.

Justice League of America #15 (January 2008)
"Unleashed" McDuffie/Benes

The matrimonial union of Dinah Lance and Oliver Queen -- better known to the world as Black Canary and Green Arrow -- should have been one of the happiest occasions on the Justice League calendar. Instead, it was to initiate a new incarnation of the Injustice League into being, marking another in a long line of personal attacks suffered by the heroes in recent years.

Organized as an "unlimited" version of the team by Lex Luthor, Joker, and Cheetah; the League of criminals forms as a response to the dissolving Society of Supervillains. With motives of widespread corruption and protection of crooks, the Injustice League strikes with startling success.

Having captured the JLA, the Injustice League holds their nemesis in captivity with the intent of executing them, but despite their consumate planning they failed to take into account the legacy of an atomic hero called Firestorm!

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