“All You Need is Hate”
Plot: It’s all on the cover. Trapped on a death world, which uber-villain will the other rogues follow? The crazy guy with the green hair, or the baldy with the overbearing attitude?
Comments: I get a few feelings about this title. I think it was supposed to be a big deal. It’s a little bit of Dwayne McDuffie’s Beyond! series thrown in with Gail Simone’s Villains United from the previous (not the current) Countdown series. Add in what the Marvel Illuminati did to Hulk before Civil War and WWH, and you’ve got the hodgepodge presented here. DC took prestige (but acquired taste) writer Bill Willingham off his pet project Shadowpact to run this limited series. He lasted all of two issues (and hopefully will return to Shadowpact, which is pointless without him). Didio has editorialized about this title like it matters.
Yet no excitement has been generated about this title. And it needs some direly. While Sean Chen is a distinctive and talented artist (certainly on the Barry Kitson level of realistic, sparkly competence, someone who should be a great fit for DC in theory), he’s not right for a planet of killers who are getting killed. This title needs a Darick Robertson or a Phil Hester, somebody edgier and creepier. And as to the writing, it needs someone with a ruthless taste for the macabre.
What made Beyond! so great was that the stakes seemed really high, and the crew assembled on the faraway battle planet very unlikely to survive them. In fact, not all of them did. What made Villains United so great (which featured many of the same cast to appear here), not to mention the follow-up Secret Six, was Simone’s focus on disturbed and psychologically damaged personalities—and a real sense of ruthlessness when it came to fates and sudden plot twists. She understood her people were bad, but she also understood they were people, too. With histories and desires, something needed if we’re to accept antagonists as anti-heroes.
That level of storytelling has not yet been reached by Salvation Run. Willingham wasn’t a bad choice for the series, as his villains have always been as memorable as his heroes. Sturges seems to have no particular character at all, and the vast number of villains (how is it they were all rounded up in the first place? Aren’t many of them still appearing in other titles?) would be utterly faceless and interchangeable if not for the fun Chen is having with the art. You know who everyone is, but you don’t know why they’re acting as they are.
It’s slightly interesting that the Joker attracts up the other freaks and harlequins and clowns, while Lex partners with the more practical and efficient and technology-oriented heroes. The plot requires similar villains from different eras to mix it up, and that could be used for fun and ironic commentary on stereotypes. There’s a nice twist at the end involving a clandestine agent on the planet. Next issue promises a Gorilla Grodd vs. Monsieur Mallah battle that is both dumb and inevitable. But this series has some imposing forbears to live up to, and instead of wiping out the competition, it’s barely on life support.
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