“Oh, The Villainy!” Take Two : “Desaad” #1

Posted: September 10, 2013 in comics
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Call me old-fashioned, but if I were putting together DC’s “Villains Month” line, here are two things that I would do:

1) I’d make sure each of these stand-alone “specials” made sense on its own, without being bogged down too heavily in continuity, so as to be welcoming to both new readers and old readers who have been enticed back into the fold by the whole 3-D holographic cover gimmick, and;

2)I’d see to it that each issue was actually good, so that said new and/or returning readers would be sufficiently intrigued to check back in next month with the “regular” DC titles.

Alas, I’m not in charge of “Villains Month,” and the Dan DiDio/Jim Lee co-captaincy at DC just doesn’t seem to see things my way. Having fleeced the gullible (myself included) out of four bucks for each of these issues, they’re happy to just say “see ya, suckers!,” pocket the cash, and laugh as they ride off over the ridge.

To be honest, each of the five “Villains Month” books I read was pretty damn underwhelming in its own way, but by far the worst of the bunch has got to be Desaad #1 (or Earth 2 #15.1 as far as “official” continuity goes), a comic that made absolutely no sense to me whatsoever.

At least we’re spared a “reimagined” version of the character’s origin here, but even that probably would have been preferable to the mess offered up by veteran writer (and former DC head honcho) Paul Levitz and artist Yildiray Cinar, who give new readers no explanation as to who Desaad is or why he does what he does, opting instead to just show him washing ashore (literally) on Earth 2 and start scaring the shit out of people in order to psychically “feed” on their pain and fear. In one particularly tasteless sequence, he even induces a security guard at a hospital to commit a mass shooting (although, hey, maybe Newtown never happened on Earth 2, in which case this lame contrivance is only offensive in the “real” world — which is still, last I checked, where all this book’s readers live) before going on to mess with the minds of a few of the patients there himself.

Next up he somehow hires a mercenary strike force to steal some equipment he needs from an outfit called Holt Industries, then he creates some irradiated super-soldier for reasons completely unknown, then gets bored and opens some kind of time-space portal to spy on his creator, Jack Kirby, only to opt to leave “The King” in peace at his drawing board and not kill him (although one suspects seeing what’s been done to his character in the pages of this magazine would, in fact, do Jack in if he weren’t, sadly, dead already). Then Desaad returns to his base of operations, kneels down before a statue of Darkseid, and we’re all finished.

Clearly, without detailed knowledge of current “New 52” continuity, Desaad #1 makes no sense whatsoever — but that’s okay, I guess, given that an acquaintance of mine who actually does keep up with most current DC goings-on reliably informs me that the book doesn’t make sense even to those who follow this stuff religiously.

I’m not going to lay too much of the blame for the mess here on Cinar — sure, his art is dull and lifeless, but he’s just a (cheap, I’m guessing) hired hand — it’s old pro Levitz who really ought to know better. Simply put, his script is an absolute shambles consisting of no clear plot progression, a tin-eared and insensitive (at best) attempt at being “topical,” and a clumsy attempt at tribute/homage to the greatest talent in the history of super-hero comics, all strung together for no readily apparent reason apart from the need to kill 20 pages with as little actual effort as possible.

Apparently rumors are swirling that DC intends to bring back all of the “Fourth World” in a big way sometime in the near future. If this is the kind of story we can look forward to should this come to pass, then all I can do is hope this scuttlebutt is wildly off-base. Genuinely imaginative characters and concepts clearly have no place at comics’ second-biggest publisher these days (or its first, but that’s another matter for another time), so please, DC, I’m begging you — leave New Genesis, Apokolips, and all of their denizens alone. Jack Kirby’s memory has been dragged through the dirt enough as it is.

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