Year of the Villain: Hell Arisen #2 (of 4)
Get ready for the villain equivalent of the Royal Rumble, because it's time for Apex Lex versus the Batman Who Laugh's infected Secret Six!
The overconfident Secret Six, though, underestimate Lex's resourcefulness, making the mistake of thinking they can overwhelm him by sheer force alone. They forget Lex is one of the smartest people on Earth, powers or no...
One by one, the Six fall...
But was it all a ruse, or at least a distraction? The Batman Who Laughs has far more tricks up his sleeve, and it includes a most unexpected prisoner!
Year of the Villain: Hell Arisen is far, far more fun than it has any right to be. After cliffhanging at a seemingly-major disadvantage last issue – wherein Apex Lex found out his multiversal powers were useless against the Dark Multiverse-fueled Secret Six – Lex reminds everyone involved why he’s one of the greatest villains in comics. It’s not his recently-bestowed strength… it’s his mind. It’s always been his mind.
That’s why Superman has never been able to truly defeat Lex, because he doesn’t rely on brute strength. He can outwit anybody (well, except Batman, because Batman), always has plans upon plans upon contingencies. So, throw an evil infected quintet of supervillainy at him, and he’ll just come up with solutions faster than his foes can react. It’s almost not fair. And as easily as the Six are dispatched, it could also be read as a metacommentary on the whole Infected storyarc as a whole. It’s hard to root for Lex Luthor, but it’s undeniably fun to watch him overcome his foes with such sublime ease.
But Lex isn’t the only one who has plans, and in one heck of a plot twist, we find out the Batman Who Laughs has somehow managed to capture the Phantom Stranger. Phantom Stranger is a major supernatural/cosmic player, so to see him reduced to being imprisoned in a tube is disconcerting indeed. It’s also a major clue that he has far more planned than just whomping on ol’ Lex.
And somewhat fortunately, the BWL is given little page time. He’s past overexposed at this point, and is a pretty one-note villain – comparisons to Marvel’s Carnage in the ’90s aren’t unwarranted. Yeah, he looks cool, and yeah, he’s a dark mirror reflection of a hero. But he kind of just does the same things over and over again. And as much fun as this series is, if its end means BWL gets shelved for awhile, more power to it.
The art by master artist Steve Epting is awesome. Flat-out. I was a little hesitant last issue about whether or not his more down-to-earth style was quite the right fit for this overblown (in a good way) superhero fare, but as of now, I’m all in. His jagged page layouts perfectly convey a sense of danger and chaos, and Javier Fernandez’ oozing inks throw just the right amount of darkness without smothering the linework. It’s a great look for a series that’s about, at it’s heart, bad guys whomping on bad guys.
Year of the Villain: Hell Arisen #2 is more fun than a barrelful of demonic monkeys. Don't sleep on this miniseries!
Year of the Villain: Hell Arisen #2 (of 4): Don’t Mess With Lex
Writing - 8.5/108.5/10
Storyline - 8/108/10
Art - 9/109/10
Color - 9/109/10
Cover Art - 8.5/108.5/10
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