Friday, June 14, 2019

Review: Event Leviathan #1

You know that I am intrigued by a book when it grabs the Friday review slot the week a Supergirl book hit the stands.

Event Leviathan #1 came out this week, the 6 week mini-series written by Brian Michael Bendis with art by Alex Maleev. Nothing grabs me like a good comic mystery and this one is fantastic. Leviathan as a group has eliminated the spy agencies and villain organizations around the world. It is looking, apparently, to consolidate power. But interestingly, Leviathan has made it clear that they want what our heroes want. The ends are not villainous, at least according to them.

Since this is a mystery, Bendis is giving us a cast of DC's best detectives. Seeing four of them poring over a crime in this issue sets the stage. These are the best investigators, above reproach, and as a result, trustworthy. So this team is out to solve this puzzle. What I love about this is that all these detectives have strong and different personalities. These aren't necessarily 'good' teammates. So seeing them bristle with each other as they exchange thoughts is delicious. Of course, snappy dialogue in street level crime stories is right in Bendis' wheelhouse.

Alex Maleev is also a perfect choice for this book, and in particular this issue, as it is a scene draped in darkness and shadow. His murky style fits a noir environment. And great sleuths slinking through crime scenes is wonderfully complementary. Maleev colors this issue as well. The palette seems limited between blues and oranges. But again, that fits. The book is gorgeous.

As for me, I have a Leviathan Theory and trust me, another post just dedicated to my theory and the clues this issue provided will be forthcoming. This issue hasn't made me budge. But this is more of an introduction.

On to the book.

The book opens at the devastation of ARGUS's headquarters.

Two of our star detectives have arrived, separately.

One is Batman, the world's greatest detective.
The other is Lois Lane, the world's greatest investigative reporter.

It is great to see these two interact, especially without Superman, something even Lois acknowledges feels strange. There are so many little touches that grabbed me in this interaction. Batman being surprised at Lois being there is one. Doesn't he know who she is? His using a bat-flashlight while she pulls out her cell phone as a flashlight is a perfect representation of their methods.

And it is obvious they both know a lot. He asks about her father. She asks about Talia. Batman treats her with respect, not something he does lightly.

We then get a quick rundown of Leviathan's busy day and the groups it has taken down. Kobra, Task Force X, ARGUS, The DEO, and Spyral were all basically erased.

I like the surprise in Lois' voice that someone would dare attack Amanda Waller in her home. Waller is feared and respected.

And I like how the events of Leviathan Rising was folded in quickly.

But this two page spread really drove home just what Leviathan accomplished ... all in one day.

Lois and Batman continue to look the place over. Both agree that the nature of the attacks doesn't easily fit with the modus operandi of the usual megalomaniacs. Luthor, for example, is ruled out.

But here is a clue. Batman says the feel of this is a lack of ego. Who is a humble person looking for world domination? Hmmm ...

One of the upshots of Leviathan's attack is that it can erode trust. Anyone can be Leviathan. And some clues point to big names. Lois was attacked, her father was too but he still lives. Is this a feint? Is Lois Leviathan? How did she get there? Earlier we saw the Question ask if Superman was Leviathan. Jimmy asked if Waller was Leviathan.

I think this suspicion is going to be a big component of this story. And it will drive readers bananas. Because all these feints and accusations will muddy the waters.

Surprisingly, amid the devastation of ARGUS, Batman finds Steve Trevor very much alive.

Trevor witnessed the destruction. ARGUS was about to open a new headquarters, named The Odyssey. The leader was someone named Dr. Strand, a woman who envisioned a world where ARGUS would act like a network site, connecting super-powered individuals with social causes in an 'we're all in this together' way.

On this opening day, Leviathan attacks. Trevor arrives to evacuate the place.

This idea of the super-community and the spy community and the public all working together for the greater good sounds like Utopia.

I think this is the first appearance of Strand.

And note the sun-dappled orange palette of the opening of this scene.

But then the Leviathan Enforcer shows up. And we know what happens then.

What is interesting is that it puts Trevor in a force bubble. Steve has to witness everything get vaporized/whisked away.

Interesting blue energy here ... but more on that another day.

I love how Trevor snaps into battle mode, starting to rattle off people who could do all this. Again Luthor is named. But 4th World? Joker? Unlikely.

And it certainly isn't old school Leviathan, led by Talia.

Batman believes Trevor was spared to tell the tale. But maybe there is more to this as well? Hmmm ...

As I said above, Bendis is a master of dialogue. And these are the best detectives, able to sense motives and read body language.

In what was my favorite exchange in the book, Lois can intuit that Batman knows a lot about Talia that he isn't saying. And he confirms it without giving details. Just perfect.

In the end, Trevor seems to snap. Too many people can be Leviathan. He yells that he is Leviathan. Then he says that Lois being attacked, her dad surviving, and Lois being there means she is Leviathan. He pulls out his sidearm and tries to shoot her! Luckily he just grazes her. And then he is taken down by our third detective, Green Arrow.

Batman is cool and calm.
Lois is determined and brave
Arrow is heated and on edge.
This friction will drive the book.

He yells at Trevor for letting all this happen, something Batman refutes. It happened on all their watch. And then it hits Arrow. All this will trigger accusations. People will turn on each other ... we just saw that!

I do wonder what long standing Diana fans, and Trevor fans, will think of his breakdown. 

Check out Batman's discussion on the energy signature. It is one not in his catalog and otherworldly. This does not jibe with my theory. But more on that later.

With more attacks certainly happening, Lois says that she, Batman, Ollie, and other trusted allies will need to all go out, gather information, and share. That's cool.

But wait, there's more. A fourth detective is there, The Question.

And the very fact that he didn't join the discussion let's us know that he isn't going to easily join this investigative cabal.

We then see Dr. Strand awaken ... somewhere. Early on in this story, given the lack of dead bodies at Leviathan's attack sites, I wondered if Leviathan was kidnapping and recruiting all these groups. Here we see that is true.

Leviathan has read Strand's works. He agrees with her ideas of networking for peace. He is disgusted how her ideas were shot down. And he wants her to join.

But this isn't a villain kidnapping and brainwashing. Look at the little spread he has laid out. Sushi, candy, tylenol, soda. It's like a Leviathan Air BnB. And what villain reads and believes in the work of a social cause warrior!

And then we finally see Leviathan.

A 'villain' without ego wouldn't use the 'royal we'. When this person says 'we are Leviathan' makes me think that Leviathan is led by an upper level of management. Or maybe this person feels that the organization is like Arthur's round table where no one was the leader.

So what did you think?
This was an introduction to the arc for all those who didn't read the preceding Superman books. We needed some background. But we got more minor clues too. And we got the formation of the detective group.

I loved this. It whet my appetite for more. And that is what a mini-series and a mystery should do.

So who is Leviathan? Do you have a theory?

Overall grade: A


Anonymous said...

A lot of reviewers complained that "nothing happened" in this issue - i.e. too much talking. I disagree with them. I enjoyed this book too. The art is great, the mood is excellent. It's beautiful to look at. The whole thing is great, but there are some especially stunning panels and pages.

(Blue and orange do look good together, though it's a bit cliche - commonly used with movie posters. These are complementary colors, an opposite color pair, so they'll always look dynamic against each other. But I like the look Maleev employs here.)

Here's one thing I'm getting better at: you almost have to read Bendis out loud to decipher some of his dialog. It's not just that his writing is "clever" - he also tries to have his characters speak naturally, complete with all the asides, jokes, backtracking and interruptions that are normal in speech. Maybe I'm wrong, but I think he does this much more than other comic writers. He's writing for the stage or screen; he's not writing novels. (If you want to read illustrated science-fiction novels, we have the Justice League books. Maybe they're just too high-concept to tell their stories completely in dialog and action.)

There is just one narration box in this entire book - "Forty-two minutes ago." That's unusual for the medium, and that's what I think Bendis shoots for.

Now, here's a thought question: Do people think there are redacted words surrounding "Event Leviathan" and "Bendis - Maleev" on the cover? It looks that way to me, though the words are probably not meaningful, and may even just be random characters.


Martin Gray said...

Great review, looking forward to the next theory post. There’s a definite out to the bit that ‘doesn’t fit’ your theory!

And I’m so jealous of the phrase ‘Leviathan Air BnB’.

TN, thanks for something else to ponder!