DC’s four-issue Year of the Villain: Hell Arisen, which launches this week, is what writer James Tynion IV is calling “the moment where the arrows of all of the different threads of story” from throughout the DC Universe funnel into a singular story in 2020.
Year of the Villain: Hell Arisen, which is being drawn by Steve Epting, brings together the events of the many “Year of the Villain” tie-in issues from the last few months, as well as the events of Justice League and Batman/Superman. It explores how the DCU is in the midst of a war with two opposing fronts - one led by the Batman Who Laughs and the other by Lex Luthor and his new master, the celestial being Perpetua.
In November when we talked to Tynion about Hell Arisen, the writer explained to Newsarama the sudden appearance of the Crime Syndicate of America in the story. They and other characters from throughout the DCU - including the characters who were “Infected” in Batman/Superman - will face off in what DC is describing as a “battle royale.”
Newsarama talked to Tynion about the huge cast featured in the story, how the two armies are being formed from multiple DC titles, and what readers can expect from Year of the Villain: Hell Arisen.
Newsarama: James, there are a lot of players in this story, and they’re battling each other - both physically and with their wits. But none of them seem to be on the side of “good.” Who do we root for?
James Tynion IV: [Laughs.] That’s the great question. I keep referring to it as the Aliens vs. Predators situation: "Whoever wins, we lose."
The two sides we’ve got going on here - one is Lex Luthor. And we’ve been following Lex Luthor in the pages of Justice League for the last year and a half as he has grown immensely powerful. He has transformed himself into an apex predator version of himself. He’s merged Martian DNA with his own. He can tap into the energies of the universe, and he is the right-hand man of Perpetua, cosmic goddess of untold power.
And now, Lex is unleashed in the universe in a way he never has been before, and he is ready to elevate the human race into what they have always been meant to be.
And then on the opposing front, we’ve been seeing the Batman Who Laughs, who has been operating in the shadows of the DC Universe since the end of the Dark Nights: Metal event. And he has been building his own army for all this time. And we’ve seen that play out in the pages of Batman/Superman, where we learn the identities of the “Infected” - the sort of Secret Six characters who have been transformed by Batman Who Laughs to become his own dark version of the Justice League as he is ready to bring his plan to the next level.
The biggest thing is that we have two tremendously powerful characters, tremendously evil characters who have incredibly dangerous plans for the DC Universe. And those two plans are about to butt heads against each other in this storyline. And I’m very, very excited about that.
Nrama: There is a huge cast in this. You’re using everything from Perpetua to the “Infected” characters?
Tynion: Oh, absolutely, and on top of all of that, Lex Luthor, over the last year, has - through his offers - he has empowered the villains of the DC Universe in all of the “Year of the Villain” issues.
This is the culmination of the “Year of the Villain.”
There are two armies forming. And this is the story where those two armies clash.
Nrama: It’s odd to see Lex as a servant. He had a real epiphany about the power of doom, didn’t he? How would you describe his motivation as he serves Perpetua like this?
Tynion: The thing we’ve been saying for awhile is this is the first time in Lex Luthor’s life that he believes in something bigger than himself.
But that’s the danger of all of this.
A lot of people are going to look at Lex and say, why are you doing this? This isn’t you. You’ve become something - in trying to seek all this power - you’ve become something that is inherently less Lex Luthor.
And that is going to be your downfall.
The Batman Who Laughs believes that thoroughly and is going to taunt and throw that at Lex.
We’re going to see other characters from Luthor’s life before the Legion of Doom, before Perpetua, who are going to really call him out for it.
So yes, all of the questions about how Lex has allowed himself to become this - they’re all connected to the fact that he believes in himself as a real savior for all humanity, and that this is the path that will lead to everyone’s ascension.
He has ascended first and foremost. And this is proof that he’s been right all along.
And now he’s going to help everyone else ascend.
But there are other people who are going to say… you’re not Lex Luthor anymore. What are you? The person we want leading this army - the person from whom the other characters accepted these offers - that was Lex Luthor. That isn’t this strange, cosmic, alien monster.
There are a lot of great character moments over this mini-series that I’ve been excited to write for a long time.
Nrama: You’re working with your Batwoman artist Steve Epting on this. What does he bring to the story with his visuals?
Tynion: I worked with Steve co-writing a series with Marguerite Bennett - the launch of Batwoman: Rebirth. But this is the first time I’ve worked solo with Steve.
I’ve been a fan of his for years, and just seeing him draw these huge, huge moments, and these huge characters - I mean, every day I open up my email and I see art from the series come in, I just grin ear to ear because it’s a lot of evil characters doing very evil things. That’s fun to write and it’s fun to see.
Nrama: How does this play into the stuff you guys have been hinting about for 2020 - the Scott Snyder/Greg Capullo story, and this “crisis” that’s coming, and everything else you guys have planned for 2020?
Tynion: It’s fair to say that this storyline spins out of “Justice: Doom War” and spins out of Batman/Superman. What this story may be a bridge to is a question that we want you to ask and we want you to keep asking.
Nrama: But there is a continuation of this concept and these characters in 2020?
Tynion: We have been building a big story for a long time, and folks will be learning more about that big story as we move forward.
Nrama: Does it play at all into your Batman series? From the solicitations, it seems like you’re dealing with a different corner of the DCU in your new Batman story…
Tynion: There might be couple of little nods here and there. There are some characters that will be appearing in Year of the Villain who then will pop up in my Batman run - some of whom may smile a lot and be on the cover of the third Year of the Villain: Hell Arisen issue.
Nrama: That would be the Joker.
Tynion: But mostly, this story will be tying up a bunch of threads that have been planted over the last year-and-a-half of Justice League and the Batman Who Laughs story leading into Batman/Superman.
Nrama: So these threads that have been running through various DC stories - it’s all part of the planned build-up to the event next year? And this story is a sort of turning point and points things in that direction?
Tynion: Exactly. This story is the culmination of a few years of storytelling. This came about back when we were planning the end of the Metal event and the launch of the entire new “Justice” line.
When we first drew out the big, mega plan for what we wanted to do across the whole line, this is the moment where the arrows of all of the different threads of story funneled into a singular story.
And that is Hell Arisen.
Honestly, it’s just really thrilling to see this story come to life.