On paper, Event Leviathan #1 kicks off DC’s latest companywide crossover but it fails to deliver many substantial new developments.
DC recently wrapped up Heroes in Crisis, a “whodunit” mystery that promised to send lasting shockwaves throughout the DC Universe. That event didn’t live up to the hype and, based on this opening installment, Event Leviathan #1 might follow in the footsteps of its predecessor.
Event Leviathan #1
Script: Brian Michael Bendis
Art & Cover: Alex Maleev
Letters: Joshua Reed
Writer Brian Michael Bendis’ story relies almost exclusively on dialogue. He delivers the majority of the plot through a conversation between Batman, Lois Lane and, eventually, Steve Trevor. Later on, an interaction between Doctor Strand and Leviathan delivers another sizable chunk of the story. This issue is a dry reading experience because, most of the time, the reader just watches characters sit around and talk. Despite all its flaws, Heroes in Crisis was comparatively more enjoyable to read because writer Tom King usually offered some redeeming feature. Regardless of the controversial narrative decisions he made, King explored the emotional consequences of being a hero and made the reader think about them. There’s not much to hang on to in Event Leviathan #1; even when compelling plot threads, like Steve Trevor’s paranoia, pop up, they drown in a monotonous flood of lengthy dialogue.
With most crossover events, there’s an implicit expectation that most readers are familiar with the background of the story heading into the first issue. Bendis has been building up to Event Leviathan in Action Comics, so Event Leviathan #1 isn’t a cold open to this crossover. While it’s not fair to expect all fans to have read recent issues of Action Comics and the Superman: Leviathan Rising Special before they dive into this story, Bendis recaps that framework throughout Event Leviathan #1. Unfortunately, the exposition dilutes a story that doesn’t progress the event beyond what we already know. Bendis largely repeats the same information, like the coordinated collapse of the world’s intelligence agencies and Talia al Ghul’s potential involvement. This issue would have been a fairly successful prelude to the event but, as the first part of a self-billed mystery thriller, it’s a dissatisfying repackaging of Bendis’ recent work in related comics.
Though Bendis relies too heavily on dialogue, the conversational dynamic between Lois Lane and Batman has the potential to carry the series. It’s satisfying to see Lois challenge Batman repeatedly despite the fact that the world as they know it has fallen apart.
Lois doesn’t let Batman get away with his usual schtick. When he shows up and tries to solve the case himself, Lois shows that she’ll be a crucial part of the effort to save the world. She helps the Dark Knight unravel some of the mystery and, collectively, they decide this takeover attempt isn’t like the others. Bendis has the opportunity to do right b Lois; if he writes her as the strong, independent character she’s meant to be, she could break free of the stereotypes many fans still have about her.
When Green Arrow arrives, he concurs and quickly emerges as another main player in the series thanks to his spunky attitude and his raw reactions to the chaos around him. “Shush, nerd,” he brashly tells Batman when the Dark Knight starts to hog the conversational spotlight. Oliver Queen also angrily screams at Steve Trevor and blames him for letting this conspiracy unfold in the first place. Batman’s response, that whatever’s going on happened under all their noses, offers another glimpse at Bendis’ promising dynamics between these characters.
Though the mystery doesn’t draw the reader in as eagerly as one might hope, these interactions are enough of a hook to draw them for at least another issue.
Event Leviathan #1 is the first comic in recent memory where, at times, it feels like the art purposefully takes a back seat to the story. Artist Alex Maleev uses sketchy, noir-like art to complement the mysterious mood of the story and, for the majority of the issue, he uses dim, subdued colors. Without flashy visuals, the reader is compelled to focus on the dialogue-driven plot. The primary function of the art can be found in the characters’ facial expressions; Maleev breathes life into Bendis’ lines by showing the reader how the heroes are feeling.
These expressions are especially prevalent on Steve Trevor’s face. As someone who was intimately involved with the now-defunct intelligence community, Colonel Trevor has been through hell. He’s racked with guilt, shock and paranoia as he grapples with everything that’s happened. Stress lines make him look 20 years older and, when he calls Lois Lane a suspect, the empty look in his eyes shows that the Steve Trevor we know and love is gone. Thanks to Maleev’s art, these facial expressions elevate Bendis’ script by adding some heart to a exposition-heavy story.
Maleev’s art gets a chance to shine in one of the issue’s most mysterious sequences. In a flashback, when a villain clad in a metallic suit arrives, Trevor gets teleported in a protective field. There’s a blinding explosion and Maleev uses apocalyptic shades of reds, orange and yellow to show a devastating blast. Previous issues of Action Comics and the Leviathan Rising one-shot heavily implied that some characters have been hidden away with these protective fields. But Maleev’s art expands on that established knowledge because, when Trevor arrives at his destination, he’s surrounded by bright blue energy. Asking for a connection to Doctor Manhattan and Doomsday Clock would be wishful thinking but, nonetheless, the source of the blue energy feels important to the series’ bigger picture.
Again, Maleev complements Bendis’ story and the art offers more intrigue than most of the script.
Event Leviathan #1 fails to build on the momentum of the Leviathan Rising one-shot. Instead, it simply spins its wheels; Bendis doesn’t offer many new nuggets of information in the story. The event may be a slow-burn mystery but, with such a dull first issue, Bendis may have already smothered the flame of the fans’ intrigue.