Year of the Villain: Hell Arisen #1 is published by DC Comics, written by James Tynion IV, with art by Steve Epting, colors by Nick Filardi, and letters by Travis Lanham. Spinning out of the pages of Batman/Superman, The Batman Who Laughs brings the Secret Six for a showdown with Lex Luthor.
The first thing to note, if you are coming to this comic having only read the “Year of the Villain” stories thus far, or the stories relating to The Infected, you are going lost. While some explanation is given, there is a lot that won’t make complete sense. Despite that, Year of the Villain: Hell Arisen #1 provides a good start to this confrontation between The Batman who Laughs and Luthor. The stakes are set high and each of the key players is given adequate opportunity to show what makes them a threat. With the minds of Luthor and The Batman Who Laughs poised against each other, it feels like there will be a lot of curveballs to come as the story proceeds forward. I was already surprised by an unexpected cameo appearance in this issue. What exactly it forebodes for the coming story remains to be seen.
At the end of the day though, Year of the Villain: Hell Arisen #1 is a setup story. With time dedicated to establishing the power of characters like Mistress Perpetua, things don’t move forward too far. They do, of course, move enough to set up the inevitable cliffhanger ending to hook readers for issue two. While this ending isn’t a bad one, it doesn’t do anything surprising.
Epting’s art with Filardi’s colors does a good job of saturating the pages with the dark tones one would expect of a story titled Hell Arisen. This book definitely builds off of the tone of the previous The Infected books nicely. While the Batman/Superman run has kept the truly dark tone of the Secret Six at bay there is no superheroic presence to hold back the artistic presentation from being imbued with the evil on display. Yet while Epting certainly delivers on these tones I don’t want to give anyone the wrong idea. This is darkness in a PG-13 setting. Nothing horrible takes place you wouldn’t expect to find in any DC Comic mainline story. This isn’t a Black Label book.
My only real complaint with the visual presentation comes from the text. The Batman Who Laughs dialogue is printed in red on black and uses a very broken-looking script. While I appreciate the aesthetic being pursued here this visual makes much of his dialogue difficult to read. I appreciate a book trying to lean into its characters’ personalities but it does so at the expense of clarity.
With a solid amount of story to pull together from a variety of places Year of the Villain: Hell Arisen #1 does its best to keep things running smoothly. Which, to this end, it mostly succeeds. If the story can get its momentum going from here and deliver the full showdown the premise promises, this could be a great series.
Year of the Villain: Hell Arisen #1 is available now wherever comics are sold.
Year of the Villain: Hell Arisen #1
With a solid amount of story to pull together from a variety of places Year of the Villain: Hell Arisen #1 does its best to keep things running smoothly.