Sinestro: Year of the Villain #1
Written by Mark Russell
Art by Yildiray Cinar, Julio Ferreira and Hi-Fi
Lettering by Steve Wands
Published by DC
‘Rama Rating: 7 out of 10
Mark Russell’s tenure at DC has mostly existed outside the realm of proper superhero characters, allowing him to hone his craft with wry updates of properties like Prez and The Flintstones. The writer has been bold about commenting on social issues with his work while still utilizing a healthy dose of comedy to maintain levity. But how does that translate to a world where seemingly the best way to solve problems is to punch them? Well, Russell kind of sidesteps that problem by making his work on Sinestro an examination of how power structures, ones that have been utilized by religions and governments throughout history, maintain control. Yildiray Cinar lends his artistic talents to this exercise — one that is particularly interesting because of the main character.
The best villains are the ones who have compelling arguments behind their missions. When written at his best, Sinestro falls into that camp. Sinestro faces off against the Paragons in this issue, a race of destructive beings who he quickly learns he can’t punch into submission. Instead, he must manipulate the microorganisms, aka the Microns, that live on their bodies and are responsible for their immortality and rapid regenerative abilities in order to weaken the Paragons enough to kill them. That’s where Russell gets to gives us his treatise on power and control — two ideas with which Sinestro is intimately familiar. Russell paints things in broad strokes here and in doing makes more meaningful parallels to religion than anything else. Though later panels that show protests by the Microns against the Paragons draw seem eerily ripped from the headlines. But are Russell’s points valid and his arguments effective?
I think it’s a mixed bag. Russell has limited space to explore these ideas with much nuance, and a lot of the religious parallels come across as little more than an “atheism 101” lecture. But having Sinenstro at the center has the potential to make everything a little more interesting. Unfortunately, he’s not a particularly reflective character here, and his explanation of his plan to take down the Paragons seems to only resonate with him as a new way to understand how control works. There’s not another voice to challenge him. So there’s a little bit of a “one step forward, two steps back” feeling to everything. Especially when it comes to anything approaching an examination of government systems. It feels a little bit like (whether intentional or not) Russell is saying that oppressive systems can be defeated from the inside, but that’s probably a byproduct of the way this narrative is framed and not the most responsible read.
Yilidiray Cinar starts this issue out pretty strong. He’s generally been known for strong character rendering and composition and he gets a couple of pages of traditional superhero fare. But as soon as the plot takes a turn for the more mundane, his linework begins to blend together. The designs for the Microns just isn’t very exciting, and the pages that feature them feel repetitive even as they depict different actions and scenes. A switch to inker Julio Ferreira in for a few pages toward the end is noticeable as the linework loses some strength. It’s not a bad overall effort, and anytime that Cinar gets to focus on Sinestro, he really pops from the sea of blue bodies around him. But there are so many forgettable aspects to the story, namely the Microns/Paragons, that it’s hard to get too excited about.
Sinestro features Mark Russell’s by now trademark approach to comic books writing, but without the benefit of multiple issues, it doesn’t feel as nuanced and well thought out as some of his other work. Russell’s work is best when it’s able to make a strong statement, and I don’t feel that he quite gets there outside of a stock “oppressive systems are bad and the people in them sometimes don’t even realize they are being controlled.” But Sinestro isn’t a hero. And he’s someone who will only use that knowledge to his own end. So maybe there’s no room for the kind of resolution that we’re used to seeing. Cinar does some good work with Sinestro himself but is fairly forgettable elsewhere. Overall, I think this is another generally good entry in Russell’s career, but stops short of being truly great.