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If I were to make a sweeping generalization about the 52 comics released for Villains Month, I would say they were decent but rarely stirring. There are a scary amount of talented artists out there, but writing is a serious problem. Also, I nicknamed it Bad Childhood Month, because nearly every villain was abused as a child, and that was their motivation. In anything happens to you as a kid in the books of DC comics, you are doomed. (Unless you’re a billionaire. Then you become Batman.)

So I broke things down into categories.

The Pretty Good.

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BATMAN #23.3: THE PENGUIN by FRANK TIERI and CHRISTIAN DUCE

I like the idea of the Penguin being the Mayor of this ruined Gotham. This is a tough character to really establish, and there’s a nice balance here of a very smart, very ruthless boss. Not a reboot.

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BATMAN: THE DARK KNIGHT #23.1: THE VENTRILOQUIST by GAIL SIMONE and DERLIS SANTACRUZ

It has some bad childhood pathos, but I was intrigued by this character. It’s a weird looking woman with a creepy doll which plugs into my horror movie sensibilities.

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BATMAN: THE DARK KNIGHT #23.3: CLAYFACE by JOHN LAYMAN and CLIFF RICHARDS

Again, not a reboot. But instead, it’s a darkly funny comic about a Clayface that’s convinced that he’s a criminal genius, no matter how much evidence there is to the contrary.

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DETECTIVE COMICS #23.3: THE SCARECROW by PETER J. TOMASI and SZYMON KUDRANSKI

Not a reboot, and for once a great tie-in to an event comic. Scarecrow traverses Gotham, subtly manipulating everyone he meets, hoping to prepare for the upcoming war for the city.

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DETECTIVE COMICS #23.4: MAN-BAT by FRANK TIERI, SCOT EATON and JAIME MENDOZA

A continuation of the original character, of course, but also a really well written story about the deterioration of poor Kirk Langstrom. At first it seems to start rather poorly, but this comic really pulls it out at the end.

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BATMAN AND ROBIN #23.1: TWO-FACE by PETER J. TOMASI and GUILLEM MARCH

Not a reboot. Two-Face attempts to save Gotham as a crime fighter because his coin tells him to do it. But Two-Face is REALLY crazy so he does just as much damage helping people as he does hurting people.

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BATMAN AND ROBIN #23.4: KILLER CROC by TIM SEELEY and FRANCIS PORTELA

Gorgeous art, Great story. (I am now paying attention to Francis Portela) Maybe the best single issue this month, with a Killer Croc that considers himself an irredeemable monster, but a comic that subtly indicates otherwise. Batman villain that’s not a reboot. Are we seeing a theme here?

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ACTION COMICS #23.1: CYBORG SUPERMAN by MICHAEL ALAN NELSON and MIKE HAWTHORNE

Now THAT is a reboot. Hank Henshaw had his moments, but his origin was just taking the piss out of the Fantastic Four. This time around, DC crafted an interesting character that fits better in Superman’s history.

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SUPERMAN #23.1: BIZARRO by SHOLLY FISCH, JEFF JOHNSON, and ANDY SMITH

Thank God! Somebody updated a character that existed back when Superman was an utter joke with a version that ties into his history better AND it fits into DC’s latest event comics. Well played.

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SUPERMAN #23.2: BRAINIAC by TONY BEDARD and PASCAL ALIXE

It’s really hard to screw up Brainiac.

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SUPERMAN #23.4: PARASITE by AARON KUDER

The origin has been mildly tweaked, but it’s the execution that’s great here. Remarkable art, and a great story. One of the stronger issues in this whole thing, and one of the few to make the Parasite creepy. The redesign is amazing, it would translate immediately to the screen.

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JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA #7.2: KILLER FROST by STERLING GATES and DERLIS SANTACRUZ

Killer Frost began very meh-ish, with the typical origin of a scientist and an experiment gone wrong (sooner or later, someone is going to be caught in a priaprism experiment gone wrong and then-) but the comic really makes an emotional turn towards the end that really separates it from the pack.

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THE FLASH #23.1: GRODD by BRIAN BUCCELLATO and CHRIS BATISTA

A good job at showing the ruthlessness and power of Gorilla Grodd. Who is the same Grodd he was before the reboot. I guess there was no Gorilla Grodd creator lawsuit.

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WONDER WOMAN #23.1: THE CHEETAH by JOHN OSTRANDER and VICTOR IBENEZ

Wow. It’s like the Wicker Man remake done right. The Cheetah is the protector of a matriarchal neo-pagan society who admire the Amazons. When spurned by Wonder Woman, Cheetah goes into a tailspin that has her turning on everyone.

(Mini rant, again this is written by the legendary John Ostrander. I don’t know if it’s his choice not to write a book for DC, but him not having a title is utterly insane. This is a guy that wrote the Spectre and the Suicide Squad, two titles no one else can get right. C’mon, someone get on this!)

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AQUAMAN #23.2: OCEAN MASTER by GEOFF JOHNS, TONY BEDARD, and GERALDO BORGES

If you had told me that Oceanmaster would have been one of the best books this month I would have laughed at you. And then I would have asked who Oceanmaster was. Like Killer Frost, it made me care about a villain that I previously ignored.

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SWAMP THING #23.1: ARCANE by CHARLES SOULE and TBA

Great artwork by Jesus Saiz, and a great story that came out of a really tiresome event that killed the momentum of the Animal Man book. Arcane feeds on rot, and is stuck in a green limbo when his daughter shows up to ask some questions, but no one can anticipate the cunning of Arcane. And that cover-

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AQUAMAN #23.1: BLACK MANTA by GEOFF JOHNS, TONY BEDARD and CLAUDE ST. AUBIN

One of the rare comics that’s too brief. Black Manta finds out that Aquaman is dead and that he has been robbed of his revenge, and now has to figure out what to do with his life. And then someone pisses him off. Clean art, and a good story.

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JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA #7.4: BLACK ADAM by GEOFF JOHNS, STERLING GATES, and EDGAR SALAZAR

A few years ago, DC used 52 to take a one-note character and make him a superstar. Black Adam has lost a lot of momentum since then but leave it to Lebanese writer Geoff Johns to reboot this character and tie him into the current Arab Spring. Great job all around. Please treat Adam right.

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