Imagine a world where familiar super-powered beings maliciously demolish buildings, stab cops, kick double-decker buses, and drown sailors. Further imagine a world in which gifted individuals pointlessly and gleefully victimize the mundane without opposition. Imagine big, dramatic images of destruction and suffering on a massive scale. Now stop imagining, because writers have told the same story over and over to the point where the novelty has vanishing. It's such well-worn material that it's fraying at its faded edges. Here it is again. E.V.I.L. Heroes offers nothing new. In fact, it hews so close to the material it wants to reference it only begs for comparisons that don’t flatter E.V.I.L. Heroes at all. Throughout this issue we're given a bunch of timestamps like you might find in a big mainstream event book. Here it's like the writer was wary of having to type "meanwhile" over and again. Time doesn’t much factor into the story. Clearly this is a device meant to imply the speed with which our antagonists are tearing across the Earth. And they do reinforce the global stakes of the attacks. But the end result is a story that feels like it is trying to keep up with itself. E.V.I.L. Heroes is so utterly preoccupied with its premise that it can’t pause for more than a page to give our antagonists a purpose. But of course you know the purpose: to let the artist draw the Justice League as mass murderers. Okay. Fair enough. But, the book shrinks away from showing most of the results of the violent rampage that makes up the bulk of this issue. I'm certainly not asking for rivers of viscera-filled blood. However, for such an ostensible probable species wide extinction, this book is relatively bloodless.
The artwork is perhaps the most enjoyable element of this issue. Each shot of action is well-composed and glides easily from frame to frame. It frequently reminds me of late-90s JLA comics that sought to match blockbuster movies in terms of bombast. Of the book's two artists, Eric J. stands out. His lines evoke the clean optimistic visuals of a bygone and likely hindsight-stained era of optimism. But even here, the book manages to disappoint at times. The character art is a bit too on the nose with its referencing of DC characters. Whichever of the books artist is responsible, it looks like they designed about three and a half characters and then got kind of bored. Their caped amoral Übermensch wears a chaos symbol on his chiseled torso. At a glance, he's just a Superman as designed by an especially “edgy” teenager. Their Batman is a literal bat person. We couldn't have at least had another kind of animal, it seems. A wolf? A weasel? A turkey? Had to be a bat, huh?
What's more, this legally distinct league seems to employ at least two actual, recognized-by-past-and-present-religions gods. You can hand wave away the presence of Kali or Anubis with the passing reference to these seven attackers being forgotten gods. But that fails because this book clumsily conflates gods, who possess actual devotees, to comic characters possessing rabid fans. There are comparisons to be made -- in a better book -- but E.V.I.L. Heroes establishes nothing about where these figures fit in their own reality before their super powered tantrum. The swathes of death and destruction have little meaning. Is this some great betrayal, or a simple yet brutally efficient invasion? Why would such powerful beings wish to make slaves of us meek humans? We die so easily at their hands; what do we have that they could want? Maybe future issues will tell us. Maybe this issue could take a break from disaster to convince me to care.
It's all too self-aware to be taken seriously, too self-serious to be entertaining, and too much a series of references to be viewed as anything other than derivative.
"Yo, what if the good guys were the bad guys?" asked someone, apparently. Well, thankfully, that question has been answered... many times, by better books, and with more subtlety than what we see here. E.V.I.L. Heroes is a premise wandering through decently illustrated pages of destruction in search of a point. I had middling hopes for this book based on the high concept presented by the title. And while I'm certain someone will find some satisfaction in yet again watching villainous versions of valiant heroes, I'm just bored by it.
[su_box title="Score: 2/5" style="glass" box_color="#8955ab" radius="6"]
E.V.I.L. Heroes #1 Writer: Joe Brusha Artist: Eric J., Cristhian Zamora Colorist: Marco Lesko Publisher: Zenescope Entertainment Price: $3.99 Format: Mini-series; Print/Digital