Sinestro: Year of the Villain #1 Review: Rising Above the Source Material

Comic Reviews - Sinestro Year of the Villain #1
(Photo: DC Entertainment)

Expectations for event-based one-shots in superhero comics should never be set particularly high. This week offers its fair share of examples, and Sinestro: Year of the Villain #1 delivers far better results than any of the competition. Rather than fleshing out a tangential plot thread of little interest or reminding readers of characters with few fans, it strives to make this supplementary "Year of the Villain" material speak as more than an update in a sprawling Justice League adventure. There's something admirable in its ambition, even if the execution is lacking.

The issue opens by identifying its own theme in an internal monologue from its titular villain. Sinestro philosophizes about the nature of service as he is set to destroy an invasion of seemingly immortal, god-like beings called Paragons (who are designed like a much more dull version of Marvel's Dreadnoughts). The Paragons are drawn as a broad metaphor. While they are worshipped as gods by some, it's just as easy to see them as stand-ins for corporations or government as organized religion. They provide a sentient organism that represents the massive, self-sustaining systems that capture so much of individual lives. This premise is far more daring than most of the new superhero comics released on a given week, and it delivers the sort of delightfully dark, final twist that defined suspense, sci-fi, and horror comics in the late Golden Age.

Unlike many of those classic comics, this premise is stretched across far more pages and reveals its thinness in the process. It only brushes past notions of service, hegemony, and revolution without space (or any interest expressed) for nuance. While there is not nearly enough space for that nuance in only 28 pages, there's little else offered to balance such an undercooked thesis. The final twist is sophomoric in nature and there's a lack of suspense or humor to provide much interest beyond the presented commentary.

The issue's ideas are developed in layouts and panels that have the mark of a confident collection of journeyman superhero artists. Without reflecting on the rest of any individual's career, the pages of Sinestro: Year of the Villain do an adequate job of delivering a narrative, but fail to impress with style or enhance the narration of ideas. There is a disconnect between Sinestro's fascination with service and how that service is displayed amongst various alien races (and the Legion of Doom). Each of these sequences clearly illustrate the text, but lack any interest in developing subtext, resulting in a sometimes dull continuation of panels that seem to imply a statement of "And then this happened…" between the gutters.

It seems unfair to accuse Sinestro: Year of the Villain of being empty calories because it still provides far more to chew on than most superhero comics published in 2019. There is a robust conceit executed in the course of a single issue, and executed without any serious gaps in craft. Yet the ideas it raises are sketched, making it a better springboard for conversation than a text to be analyzed on its own merits. Measured by its own seeming goals, it is only a middling affair that offers a mixed-bag for entertainment and thought within the reading experience. In this case, being better than average can still be described in less than laudatory terms.

Published by DC Comics

On August 7, 2019

Written by Mark Russell

Art by Yildiray Cinar

Inks by Julio Ferreira (p. 21-26)

Colors by Hi-Fi

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Letters by Steve Wands

Cover by Brandon Peterson