Necessary Evil: Super-Villains of DC Comics [Blu-ray]
THE JOKER, LEX LUTHOR, CATWOMAN, DOOMSDAY, BANE. What makes them so thrillingly watchable? So terribly wonderful? So extremely vital to our super heroes and their worlds? This new feature-length documentary explores these questions across seven decades of DC Comics' hallowed Rogues' Gallery of infamous evildoers.
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Cover date: June 2003
Writer: John Byrne
Penciller: John Byrne
Inker: John Byrne
"Century 23: Return of the Warrior"
Reviewed by: Michael Bailey (GarrickMcNider@aol.com)
While Parademons unload a mechanized cocoon whose incubation is complete, Lara and Lois, great-grand daughters of Superman, fly the body of Wonder Woman's daughter to Paradise Island. They are greeted by Queen Diana when they land who asks to see the body of her daughter. Lois tries to explain that they tried to get Princess Stephanie into bio-suspension as soon as possible but Queen Diana informs them that she was already beyond the capabilities of their science. She orders the body taken to the House of Healing so that Dr. Von Gunther to put the Princess under the Purple Ray. When Lois asks what the Purple Ray is Diana explains that it is a secret Paradise Island has kept from the eyes of the outside world for many year, but invites the girls to witness to how they may save Princess Stephanie. Lara wonders aloud how they could save her since she is dead.
In the void where New Genesis is trapped Metron's investigations come to another dead end. He muses on how Darkseid's contingency plan worked better than even he might have hoped since despite having two hundred years to do so he could not find a passage back to fourth-dimensional space. It is in Metron's nature to never give up, but even this challenge is beyond the capabilities of the Mobius Chair.
Meanwhile, below on New Genesis Superman wakes up screaming, startling his lover Beautiful Dreamer. He moans about how this was the worst nightmare yet and Dreamer asks if he remembers any of the dream. Superman tells her that the details have already faded and that not even his super memory can pull them back. All he is left with is the same overwhelming sense of dread and despair. Dreamer pleads for him to let her help him, but Superman tells her no.
Back on Earth in Gotham City, the original clone of Buddy Blank tells his doctor that despite the fact that he shouldn't feel tired he still does. The doctor explains that it is psychosomatic symptoms only since the only thing he shares with the other Omacs is a genome. Buddy goes on to tell her that despite this fact they all are him in some strange way. Despite the doctor's assurances Buddy has reservations about the consequences of creating an army of Omacs.
On the dark side of the moon a Parademon tells Skarg that they have lost all contact with the troops on Earth. Skarg tells them that all communications systems cannot fail at the same time. Despite this the systems have failed and they are not even sure if the troops that were teleported to the surface made it since they have no contact with them. Skarg informs the group that the weapons systems are almost back online but before he can continue he is informed that the planet is surrounded by geo-stationary satellites that form a ring around the equator. Upon scanning them the Parademons discovered that they are directing great amounts of energy towards the planet's surface, which may be blocking the signals from the ground troops. Skarg orders his men to continue scanning and that as soon as the weapons are back online they shall test that hypothesis.
On Paradise Island Queen Diana explains that she had created the Purple Ray more than two hundred years ago to restore the life of Steve Trevor. Lara asks if he was dead and Diana replies that he was, but the ray was not able to restore him the second time. Diana orders them to proceed with activating the Ray, which bathes Princess Stephanie with purple light. During the process Lara asks her sister why the Amazons had never bothered to tell anyone the Purple Ray. Lois replies that Batman must have known about it, which is why he ordered them to bring Stephanie back to Paradise Island. Suddenly, Lara notices that Stephanie's hand is moving.
In Smallville, a tech-sergeant informs Batman that they are beating the Parademons back, even with the weapons they captured. He asks the Dark Knight how he knew the attack was coming. Batman replies that it was a hunch since the Parademons have been attacking Earth every hundred years since 1925. The only thing that troubles him is the fact that the Parademons beamed down knowing they would lose power on the surface.
On the battlefield one of the Omacs wonders if the ease with which they are beating the Parademons could mean they are setting a trap. Another Omac mentions that Parademons aren't smart enough for that kind of planning. Suddenly, Clark, grandson of the original Superman, flies by and informs them that these Parademons may be smarter than normal and that they should keep on top of them while he can scan the area from above. As Superman flies off he muses how he wishes Control would go ahead and get a lock on where the Parademon fleet was hiding considering that while no more have beamed down since the first wave they have found a solution to their power problem.
One of the Parademons who is a part of that First Wave tells his commander that they have captured enough weapons to put up a strong resistance. The commander yells that they lost more than half of their force doing it and that the Amazon she-devil cost them two hundred units before they brought her down.
On Paradise Island Diana is informed that while the Purple Ray has successfully restored all of Stephanie's life functions that she was dead for more than one hour longer than proscribed limits and that this might cause brain damage. Lois and Lara both apologize for not getting there faster. Diana tells them that they have no blame in this and that she knows what she must do.
Back at Control the tech-sergeant tells Batman that the Parademon fleet is in the moon's shadow. He goes on to say that he can't get a fix on how many there are but where they are is enough for Batman who orders B.J. to get every available man to launch station to finally take the offensive in the war,
The Parademon fleet's weapons come back online. Skarg orders his men to move at once to firing positions and begin to destroy the power satellites.
Meanwhile, back in Gotham City Buddy Blank collapses to the floor and begins to writhe in pain. His doctor asks what is wrong and Buddy tells her that he feels like he is being cut into pieces. She contacts Batman to tell him that she thinks Blank Prime is dying. Batman theorizes that it is his bio-psychic link. The tech-sergeant yells that it's getting bad on the battlefield after the Parademons destroyed forty percent of the Eye-Ring causing forty percent of the Omacs to revert to Buddy Blank. On the field the tech-sergeant's numbers are a reality as Omacs begin to change back to Buddy Blank. One Omac shouts to his "brothers" that they should keep pressing the offensive. Another Omac tells him that they cannot take any more losses because the Parademon forces are close to outnumbering them again.
In space, B.J.'s fleet engages the Parademons. Skarg orders his men to break into defensive positions and to keep firing on those satellites. On the ground an Omac orders another to contact central command and have them send in reinforcements. All eyes go skyward as the Invisible Jet and Supergirl Red and Blue appear on the scene. Queen Diana, in full Wonder Woman regalia, leaps from the jet and attacks the Parademons. Lois and Lara watch in amazement before joining the battle themselves.
As B.J. and his fleet begin to break up the Parademon's battlefronts a Parademon informs his comrade that if they are spread out any further too many ships will be outside of the range of the Helix. The second Parademon orders them to prepare for the time jump anyway. Several Parademons argue the point, but Skarg tells them that it doesn't matter that the time jump was meant to be a last ditch contingency. Skarg tells them it is not his place to question His wisdom. His final order before making the jump is to send an Omega Pulse to destroy the troops on the ground that are beyond retrieval.
On the ground Wonder Woman, Lois and Lara watch as the Parademons begin to explode. The blast waves multiply adding one onto the other. After the explosions cease a good deal of Smallville is decimated. Wonder Woman tells the group that it will take years to rebuild. Lois asks why they keep attacking Smallville. Lara tells her that they are probably being petty since Smallville is their Grandpa Kal's old home town. After Clark lands Wonder Woman asks what happened to the fleet. Clark replies that most of the fleet was destroyed, though four of them did a fast fade and vanished.
Wonder Woman thanks Batman for having Lois and Lara bring Stephanie home, adding that she did not know that Batman was aware of the Purple Ray. Batman tells her that he has never heard of the Purple Ray. He figured that if she had seen that her daughter had fallen in battle it might inspire her to become Wonder Woman again.
Back on New Genesis, Superman agrees to have Beautiful Dreamer probe is dreams despite the fact that she went to High Father and the other New God's with the problem without his consent. Superman lies down and Dreamer begins her probe and the two find themselves in a smoky battlefield. Superman tells the questioning Dreamer that they are inside his dream, though the images are much clearer. The two see Saturn Girl and Brainiac 5 leading Dreamer to think they are seeing Earth in the thirtieth century. Brainiac 5 is struck down by a blast of energy. Saturn Girl rushes to his side and tells him not to give up and that they need to get to the Time Spheres to warn Superboy. Brainiac 5 tells her that his injuries are fatal and that she needs to go on without him. He hands her a device to plug into the main control console of the time machine which will monitor her life signs and send the Time Bubble back to the thirtieth century if anything happens to her. Saturn Girl rushes to the Time Bubble and sets the controls to 1925. She knows that she must get a warning to Superboy no matter the cost.
Superman tells Dreamer that Saturn Girl succeeded, it just took three hundred years to understand what it was.
Story - 5: There was a lot of good in this issue. By far this is the best issue yet and has me looking forward to the next issue to see how the story is progresses.
It's not that I hated the previous three issues. Issue one was a really strong start, but issues two and three, while having a good bit of action and characterization, seemed to limp along. This probably has a lot to do with the fact that they were setting up the rest of the series, but when you read books from month to month set-up can seem to take forever. I know that when the series finishes and I sit down to read the story all at once that everything will make sense and that I will enjoy the individual issues a lot more.
But that's nine months from now. Today we are dealing with issue four and I have to say that I really liked what John Byrne did in this story.
The re-introduction of Wonder Woman into the Generations mythos was a welcome one. All of the little touches Byrne threw in were nice, including mentioning Dr. Von Gunther, a villain from Wonder Woman's Golden-Age whom she managed to rehabilitate if I am remembering correctly. I am somewhat curious to see how she became Queen Diana, but I can live without the info. One of the charms of the Generations saga is not learning everything that happened but seeing the characters progress to their natural destinies, or at least how John Byrne sees them.
I'm still enjoying Lara and Lois as characters and it was nice to see them return. I guess they are around for the long haul. I dug their reactions to the Purple Ray and how they questioned why the Amazons kept the secret hidden. It shows that despite the fact that they are several hundreds of years old that they are still young girls in many ways, especially when it comes to battle.
I was really happy to see Superman again and was kind of shocked to see him with Beautiful Dreamer. I guess it makes sense in a way. They had been trapped in the void for two hundred years without knowing if they were ever going to return and even a Man of Steel must get lonely. Beautiful Dreamer is an apt choice considering that she probably reminds Superman of Lois, at least physically. And if you are going to choose a New God to hook up with Dreamer is a good choice. It was also good to see Byrne pay off on Superman's "odd feeling" by turning it into a recurring dream.
Batman. Ah, Batman. It was nice to see Byrne infuse some of that cold blooded, Machiavellian vibe that he used back in MAN OF STEEL #3. For the most part Batman has been more of the Golden-Age characterization. In this issue, though, he took a slight turn to towards the dark side by manipulating Wonder Woman into returning to duty. I liked it. I liked it a lot as a matter of fact. I've always been fond of Batman being portrayed as a calculating, ends justify the means type of crime fighter. It was also good to see him prepared for the Parademons attack. Batman is the world's greatest detective and he is the one who should have seen the pattern.
The story is starting to come together. I am still a little fuzzy on the continuity of the Parademons, but hopefully that will become clear in time. Overall this was a really solid issue with a good mix of action and character.
Art - 5: The artwork was bordering on phenomenal this issue. From the first page with the detail on the "cocoon" to the swirling section of space that Metron was examining, I really think Byrne was on the top of his game this time out.
As always I liked to see Superman in costume. He seemed a little more filled out this issue, kind of like how Byrne drew him during his run. It was also interesting to note how much Beautiful Dreamer resembled Byrne's Lois Lane in some places. I don't know if this was intentional or not and it could just be my perceptions of the art, but I may be on to something. It's interesting to note how Byrne will draw the male Kirby figures in the Kirby style but the women are usually pure Byrne. Again, this could just be me.
I continue to dig the costume designs for Knightwing as Superman and Lois and Lara. Knightwing's costume is just neat; there is really no other way to describe it. The way the cape hangs off the shoulders looks great, especially when the character is flying.
Wonder Woman looked good as well. I was always going back and forth on Byrne's initial run of the character with WW sometimes looking fantastic and sometimes looking like she really had to use the restroom. Here we were treated to an Amazon queen and the old school (well, not that old school) uniform. My only problem came with the way Byrne drew the sword during the battle scenes. It seemed to change size from panel to panel.
The action scenes were handled well and the detail on some of the pages was really nice. There is not much to complain about as far as the art goes and I thought it blended well with the story.
Cover Art - 5: Now this is a cover.
On the "Grab Me" scale this was a nine out of ten. Wonder Woman was striking in the foreground. The breast plate and shield had a real metallic feel demonstrated with how they glint in the light. The expressions of the characters in the background were fitting. Superman and Lois have expressions of shock at Wonder Woman's handiwork. Batman and Lara, on the other hand, look almost pleased. It's a nice look of contrast into how the characters think. Batman's expression fits into the manipulating he did during the story. It seems he was pleased with how his plan came together.
Overall the best cover yet. The background color took away from it a bit, but the figure work is fantastic. This cover would have made me want to pick the comic up if I had not already had it on reserve.
Check out the Comic Index Lists for the complete list of Superman-related comics published in 2003.