When it comes to major event comics, particularly in the DC Universe, they tend to have a specific goal: some sort of restructuring of the world. That can occur on a large scale in terms of actual multiversal changes, as in Crisis on Infinite Earths, or the wide-reaching yet still somewhat personal and intimate, like "The Death of Superman." With Event Leviathan #1, though, Brian Michael Bendis is offering up a story that is both the kick off of a mystery with deeply personal and terrifyingly global stakes for those involved and creating something that feels fresh and familiar at the same time.
The issue doesn't waste any time getting into the story, but it also doesn't just drop readers into mayhem. There's a bit of artful table setting in the opening pages, and it's done in a thoughtful, carefully crafted way that gives the story as we know it a solid backbone—something that may be the "best" part of the whole issue. I'm going to simply cut to the chase here: Event Leviathan #1 is an excellent comic book and it owes that excellence, narratively-speaking, to the opening sequence establishes. It would be one thing to simply recap the events leading to the moment Batman and Lois Lane come to stand in the rubble of an ARGUS facility. Plenty of comics set the stage for larger stories that way, getting readers up to speed before diving into the action. Instead, Event Leviathan #1 still recaps things, but uses that as a tool to set up its tone, and it's that strong setup that everything coming after hangs onto.
With the foundation out of the way, the story moves almost seamlessly into the real predicament at hand. The devastation of the world's intelligence communities are connected, as are the targets who have been allowed to survive. It's the discussion of these events that help readers understand that Batman and Lois realize this, but the pair don't exactly trust each other, and it's that set up that lets a strange, thrilling sense of uncertainty creep in. Two heroic figures, one in a cape and one with a pen, who are generally on the same side when it comes to good and evil, may be allies in this mystery, but they are already on uncertain ground with one another.
It quickly becomes evident that that sense of destabilization is part of the plan. Whatever Leviathan has in store for the world, shaking down the status quo has already been established large-scale through the destruction of Kobra, Task Force X, ARGUS, the DEO, and Spyral. Now it's time for that shake down on a smaller, more impactful level. When a surprise survivor is found in the rubble, not only do readers get their first clue about how Leviathan operates, but to their larger aims, as well. Who is Leviathan? No one knows just yet, but the mystery antagonist has one hell of a strategy to shift the focus to trusted figures even as the real plan moves forward in the background.
It's that chilling, all-too-realistic narrative that, when coupled with Alex Maleev's detailed and expressive art, elevates Event Leviathan #1 from being simply an "event" comic. This is a high-stakes thriller, the comic equivalent of television's 24 as our "heroes" try to figure out how to thwart what looks and feels very much like a terror attack in an extremely limited amount of time. Bendis' words make that clear enough, but it's Maleev's art that makes a real difference, particularly when it comes to Lois Lane's facial expressions. Lois' face is a mix of determination, weariness, and carefully controlled fear that feels hauntingly familiar with everything going on in the world as we know it, even if the circumstances aren't the same.
Engaging and well-considered, Event Leviathan #1 both looks and reads like thriller, offering just enough in the way of twists and turns to take readers on a story that is both a little predictable and a bit unexpected, leaving the quiet possibility that this is a threat that the heroes may not be able to stop—while also making one wonder exactly who the heroes really are and what cost is worth paying for a "better world."
Published by DC Comics
On June 12, 2019
Written by Brian Michael Bendis
Art by Alex Maleev
Letters by Joshua Reed
Cover by Alex Maleev