THIS REVIEW OF ‘EVENT LEVIATHAN’ #1 IS SPOILER-FREE.
by Brendan Hodgdon. When it comes to blockbuster comics events, readers have come to expect grand-scale superhero extravaganzas filled with massive changes to the status-quo and immediate danger for the relevant protagonists. To see a marquee event title take its time and ease readers into its story with character work and dialogue is… uncommon, to say the least. Enter: Event Leviathan #1, the latest DC Comics event as delivered by Brian Michael Bendis, Alex Maleev and Joshua Reed, which offers a unique approach to what an event comic can be.
The most remarkable aspect of Event Leviathan #1 is how quiet it is, and how little it relies on superhuman pyrotechnics to attract the readers’ attention. The vast majority of the issue is just a conversation, with one dramatic flashback and a quick burst of violence to drive home the stakes. It’s an atypical start to what is ostensibly a summer blockbuster, and the way it’s put together highlights how much this is, above all else, a mystery. The nature of Event Leviathan #1 suggests that the series as a whole might not rely on action to drive the plot, that the intellects of the assembled heroes will likely provide the spectacle.
Highlighting this particular form of spectacle are Batman and Lois Lane, written with great relish by Bendis. While these two have a shared history through Superman, it’s not often you see them together without Big Blue around (which they acknowledge here); in the hands of this creative team their interaction crackles with tension and intelligence. The first half of the issue is a thrilling duel of wits, with each character alternating their postures from guarded to incisive, their words full of meaning and accusation. Reed’s letters bolster Bendis’ words, nimbly emphasizing the ebb and flow of the conversation, which becomes increasingly more chaotic and uncertain as the next few players of our whodunit are introduced. But Bendis and Reed make the dialogue pop throughout, a blessing considering how much of it there is.
And with a story as chatty as this, a lot falls on the artist to keep things visually interesting. Of course for Maleev such work is old hat after his years of collaborating with Bendis, and the results are as impressive as ever. His use of color sets a compelling mood, from the orange-dusk tones of the flashback to the blacks and blues of the central scene. Maleev’s Batman is a treat, moving with hunched shoulders as his cape shrouds him in darkness, emphasizing Batman the investigator as few artists do anymore. With Lois, Maleev does a lot with her body language to ensure that she isn’t dwarfed by the costumed heroes around her. Indeed, her steely determination informs every line he draws. And Maleev’s layouts are dynamic, bouncing the conversations back and forth across the page. Here again, Reed is a quiet hero, as his lettering carefully draws the reader through the controlled chaos of the page.
The creative team’s pursuit is undeniable here, in terms of both visuals and wordsmithing. But the big question that will make or break Event Leviathan in the long run is also what’s keeping it so accessible out of the gate: What is it about? Unlike other recent DC event series, the themes here are not self-evident, either in this first issue or in the nature of the premise itself. We mostly just have the words of Leviathan to go on, who offers the de rigueur motivation, “burn it all down and start over.” It’s the sole to-be-expected beat of the whole issue, and the one element that doesn’t achieve the same tense thrill that the rest of the book does.
Regardless of its ultimate significance in the DC Universe, the thrillingly-executed craft of Event Leviathan is impossible to ignore. Bendis, Maleev and Reed are working at an incredibly high level here; they’re clearly aiming to craft a new kind of event experience, one that recalls classic mysteries of yore in its willingness to slow down and let the characters do the talking.
DC / $3.99
Written by Brian Michael Bendis.
Art by Alex Maleev.
Letters by Joshua Reed.
8.5 out of 10
Check out this 7-page preview of ‘Event Leviathan’ #1, courtesy of DC!
Variant cover by Kenneth Rocafort.