Brian Michael Bendis is taking advantage of his relatively new spot at the center of the DC Universe to bring a new spin to comic book event series with Event Leviathan, which gets a sneak preview this week in the 25-cent DC's Year of the Villain one-shot - followed by a six-issue series with artist Alex Maleev beginning June 12.
“I knew going ahead that what I'll do is really structure the story around Alex's strengths and his shadows, and what it ended up being is something more along the lines of like an Agatha Christie novel or like Death Trap, starring DC heroes, where they're all in the room trying to figure out what happened,” says Bendis. “It's a whodunit, it's a thriller, and I bring that up because so many big miniseries have almost a disaster movie structure … in this one, we thought let's get a little more like Batman, let's get a little more detective. Detectives show up after something’s happened and try to figure it out.”
Year of the Villain picks up the Leviathan story from Bendis’ run on Action Comics, with Bendis and Maleev showing a mysterious character pitching Batgirl on what may be a better way to improve the world. Things blow up, clues are detected and in Event Leviathan #1, the world’s greatest detectives find themselves locked in a room with a case to solve before dawn comes and everything gets worse.
"There will be a reveal or two or three at the end of every issue,” Bendis says. ”Detectives will solve the case, and the case may bring another question to the table. … By the end of this you'll find out who Leviathan is, what they've done, why they've done what they've done.”
Expect big roles for the Question, Plastic Man, Manhunter and most of all, Lois Lane.
“I couldn't think of anybody more important to this story than her,” says Bendis. ”She's the most dangerous woman in the world, not because she's married to Superman, but because of where she grew up, who her father is, and now she has access to the publish button at the most one of the biggest media services in the world. She has autonomous publishing power, like some of the New York Times reporters. That's a very dangerous woman. Don't mess with her.”
Leviathan himself plays a subtle game, down to the design of his armor.
“He's dealing with icons and psychology of imagery,” says Bendis. “They think they're fighting Darth Vader, because Leviathan wants them to think they’re fighting Darth Vader.”
Bendis promises Event Leviathan will have long-lasting consequences for the DC Universe.
”The structure of the DC Universe, this intelligence organization part of the DC Universe, will be different at the end of the story,” he says. ”Leviathan will have risen, and what it is and what they've done will have landed, and so there are a lot of pieces that are going to shift and a lot of heroes are going to have kind of a new purpose, like a new motivation, because the enemy will have revealed itself.”
When asked if creating a DC event differs from a Marvel event, Bendis answers: “Ask me in six months. … I've learned over the years that the event is really about moments and the fallout. The events that people really really dug of ours, it's because the fallout was enormous, and lasted. … So I'm very curious to see what the fallout is afterwards and what the shape of it is.”
Preceding and tying into the series is an 80-page Superman: Leviathan Rising Special #1 by Bendis, artist Yannick Paquette, and others, that will will include prelude looks at the upcoming limited series Lois Lane (by Greg Rucka and Mike Perkins) and Jimmy Olsen (by Mat Fraction and Steve Leiber).
“This is the question everyone has asked me (about Fraction and Lieber’s Jimmy Olsen) is, "Is it Hawkeye good?" It’s Hawkeye good. Order it. It’s fantastic!”
Bendis also addressed recent developments for Jon Kent, who returned from space in Superman aged up to about 17, sparking more than a little online fan controversy.
“There's a story being told that we think will be additive to that thing you liked about (Jon), a big one,” says Bendis. ”And we haven't gone to the big reveals yet, but we're getting there. By the end of the Unity Saga, Jon’s purpose will be fully revealed.”
And then there’s Chaz, Superman’s new, bearded undercover identity based visually on actor Bradley Cooper in American Hustle.
“Chaz is the greatest thing I brought to DC Comics. Nothing you say will convince me otherwise,” says Bendis. “Funny thing is, he's actually done it a few times. Superman's gone undercover quite a few times and different whatchamacallits, so it's well within character.”
Marvel and DC both have eclectic pools of characters to pull from, but there is a different flavor to each, Bendis says.
”I think there's something genuinely unique about Marvel being in the real world New York and then DC being in fictitious cities,” says Bendis. “It allows us to tell more real stories in the fictional series. Greg’s doing some real journalist stuff with Lois Lane, and it's going to feel a lot less soapboxy because it’s in a fictitious world.”
Another big difference is the number of full on Crisis-style reboots DC has had.
“With DC, there's a little more figuring out which truth is the truth of the character today,” he says. “With Superman, just staying true to the core ideas and values of the character and the concept of the book really get you 90% of the way there. That's really what the book supposed to be. It's not supposed to be a treatise on reboots. It's supposed to be a story about this character right now.”
Bendis says the daily experience of working at DC suits his style these days.
“I never had any issue with the way Marvel ran their ship, but I like how this ship runs more,” he says. “I think there's things over here that, if they knew DC was doing them, they’d do in two seconds. They just don't know.”
In researching DC’s past, Bendis says he’s come across a few gems from the past that slipped past him the first time out.
“The most recent was Grant Morrison’s Multiversity,” he says. “tI was completely blown away and charmed. He took all of this stuff that I had just read, and did this with it, and I would have never done that.”
As for Young Justice, this week’s issue features a flashback to what happened between Tim Drake and Stephanie Brown from Detective Comics to Young Justice. The issue guest stars Zatanna and marks the DC debut of artist Kris Anka. Bendis also promises more about Ginny Hex, who will get the spotlight in Young Justice #8, and Teen Lantern. And Conner Kent’s recent return was in the cards from the early days of Bendis’ DC tenure.
As for Naomi, Bendis spoke highly of artist Jamal Campbell.
“Jamal had been an artist that I had been keeping an eye on I really liked, and just right before Naomi he had done something that he'd really just found that next level and I was, like, boy, I really hope he's the one,” says Bendis. “He really was, and what I was really happy about with Jamal is that he had a lot of choices on his table. He had some guaranteed hit books - like they sell no matter who's on them kind of gigs. And he chose this instead, because he saw the value in building something from scratch over that. And that immediately made me fall in love with him.”