Cue evil laugh
Cue creepy lighting
Cue long, rambling monologue
Cue the yea’s best. Enjoy!
1.) DEATHSTROKE (Teen Titans, Identity Crisis)
“Brad [Meltzer] did an amazing job with Deathstroke in Identity Crisis.”
Was there, really, any doubt on this one? He returned to his former greatness with a bang this year, dismantling a squad of heroes with ease in Identity Crisis and proving that even a one armed Slade is a tough man to keep captured in Teen Titans. Not just the best villain of the year, but the best rebirth of an existing character who had fallen into disrepair.
Slade Wilson, aka Deathstroke the Terminator (aka Deathstroke the Hunted”¦anybody remember that mid-90s gem?) has been on and off one of comics’ most compelling villains for over two decades for two reasons: he’s a complex character who breaks the cookie cutter mold of atypical villain and he’s also a straight up bad-ass. For too long, Deathstroke has been depicted without the first quality and a poor parody of the latter to compensate, but in 2004, Geoff Johns brought back the complexity while Brad Meltzer brought back the bad-ass.
In the pages of Teen Titans, we saw Slade both in the present, training his daughter Rose to be the new Ravager, and in the future, fighting for his existence against the totalitarian Titans Tomorrow. The present day Deathstroke under Johns’ pen exhibited all the things that drew readers to him in the 80s in the pages of New Teen Titans: he was cold and calculating, manipulating his own daughter into becoming his twisted protÃƒÂ©gÃƒÂ©, yet at the same time, there were traces of a father who had lost the rest of his family and longed for somebody to love. And never forgotten, underscoring it all, Slade Wilson’s extreme, perhaps twisted, but unwavering code of honor and commitment: his best friend was killed and he will not rest until that death has been avenged, regardless of what it costs him or anybody else and even if the killer is the son he once loved; Deathstroke is unrelenting.
But Brad Meltzer had Deathstroke take a vacation from the soap opera and the ethics game and brought him into the pages of Identity Crisis as the protagonist for the greatest fight scene of the year and the guy who straight up kicked the Justice League’s collective ass using little more than his incredibly enhanced brain, a set of super speed-tracking explosive mines and one nasty cutlass. Slade went head to heads, feet, arrows, magic and sonic scream spewing mouths and power ring with the Justice League lineup many have called the best of all time (less a certain Man of Steel, Dark Knight, Amazon Princess, big green guy and”¦um”¦Aquaman) and came less than a hair from coming out on top. And he didn’t do it with an all-purposes suit of armor, a giant robot or a Kryptonite/Venom vitamin drink, he did it with his wits, his strategy and his refusal to blink (even when Green Lantern is waving the most powerful weapon in the universe two feet from his face); that’s bad-ass.
And that’s the best villain of the year.
Who created Kid Flash by blowing off Impulse’s kneecap? That’d be Deathstroke. Who stabbed the fastest man alive and outwilled Green Lantern? Ding ding ding, Deathstroke again! Who almost took out 8 members of the JLA singlehandedly? Deathstroke. And while he may not take home “father of the year” honors (his daughter the new Ravager blinded one of her eyes in an attempt to live up to his example), he’s certainly the villain of the year. Plus they’ve got two good eyes between them.
2. Captain Cold (The Flash)
“He’ll be bigger in 2005.”
As he’s been portrayed over the last five years in The Flash under Geoff Johns, Captain Cold isn’t all that much different from any of us: he has his vices, he has his pride, and he doesn’t take kindly to insults towards his family or friends. But while he has some good qualities (doesn’t like drugs, loyalty to his friends, sends flowers to a guy who lost his wife even if he is on the “other side”), at the end of the day, Leonard Snart is a bad guy, and he wouldn’t have it any other way.
But the way Johns writes the character he admits is his favorite in Flash lore (with the possible exception of the title character himself), it’s almost impossible to root against the guy. Yeah, he has to resort to prostitutes and he steals jewels and stuff, but he takes the time to sit down with a depressed Wally West in a diner when he doesn’t realize he’s actually his greatest foe, he helps out the good guys when he must, and, again, he sends Elongated Man flowers.
But still: he leads a group called the Rogues, can’t be much more clear than that.
Captain Cold is one of the most fascinating villains in recent history because you know you’re supposed to root against him, he wants you to root against him, and yet you’ll spend hours puzzling over in your head exactly why you should.
Captain Cold isn’t that far from the type of guy a lot of us would idolize: tough, self-sufficient, a leader, but caring and cognizant of the way to treat others with respect and politeness (provided they don’t piss him off).
But still”¦he’s a bad guy, dammit! And if you say otherwise, he’ll freeze your tongue to a pole and then throw you off a cliff.
Johns continues to excel at writing Mr. Snart by not treating him as a two-dimensional villain. He slugs The Trickster for mocking the deceased Captain Boomerang and sends flowers to Ralph Dibny following the news of Sue’s death. He calls off a big bank job right in the middle because he has lost the taste for it. And yet, still, he is leading the Rogues towards perpetrating chaos in the Keystone and Central Cities.
He’s a villain, but he’s also a person. Pure evil can be fun in comics, but this is a much harder balancing act to pull off.
The beauty of Captain Cold is easily summed up by loyal Nexus Reader James Lawson who writes;
“What amazes me about the current storyline in Flash is how well Captain Cold is being written. Being the “veteran” of the Rogues, we know he tends to call the shots, but seeing him since the events in Identity Crisis. From understanding Ralph Dibny’s loss, to now losing a close friend and comrade, I really hope this doesn’t take too much off of Cold’s nasty edge.”
I couldn’t have put it better myself.
I don’t read comics just to see brawls. I demand some interesting characterization in my comics, and Geoff Johns is one of the best because he does as much work realizing the villains as the heroes. Len Snart has been a favorite since before I was a Flash fan. My love for the character goes to my pre-reading days watching the Legion of Doom episodes of The Super Friends. During his run on The Flash, Geoff Johns has taken a rather one-dimensional character and, and at last, made him fully-realized. While Captain Cold used to be a good villain, under the guidance of Geoff Johns he’s now one of the best.
3. The Green Goblin/Norman Osborn (Spider-Man, The Pulse, Amazing Spider-Man)
With everyplace he has been this year, he’d BETTER have made this list. Between some bad stuff in The Pulse, the whole Gwen Stacy mess in Amazing and finally getting caught in MK: Spider-Man and later The Pulse, Norman deserves to be on the list simply for staying busy.
For me the villain here is all Norman. Whether he was bedding Gwen in the past (and producing evil offspring and enraging fans in one fell swoop), killing prison guards’ wives while still in his glass cage, or playing mindgames with a Spider-Man who is panicked by his Aunt’s disappearance, the evil he did out of costume far exceeded what he perpetrated in costume. Hell, he was even a bastard in the alternate universe of the “Powerless” miniseries, kidnapping Gwen Stacy and blackmailing Peter Parker into using his internship at Stark Industries to steal and pass along trade secrets. This man knew how to multitask in 2004.
4. Hush (Gotham Knights)
Hush returned to Gotham this year. He scared the Riddler nearly to death and broke the Joker the way Bane broke The Bat. He brought along Prometheus and they decimated Joker’s goons. Anyone who demolishes Joker in Gotham deserves to make the list. But the kicker was when he kidnapped Alfred. Before escaping Alfred discovered that Hush had another hostage; Dr. Thomas Elliot. To be continued in 2005!
5. Lex Luthor (Superman/Batman)
Lex Luthor lied. As President he lied to the American people. He led them to believe that something was a threat, when it really wasn’t. He used the power of the President as a tool for a personal vendetta. Does it get any more evil than that?
6. Ord (Astonishing X-Men)
One usually does not associate bad things with the word “cure” but Ord (from Breakworld, of course) did his best to change all of that in 2004. Whether it was setting up a faux hostage situation to draw out the X-Men, playing further on Beast’s insecurities by introducing a chance that McCoy could stop and reverse his evolution (or de-evolution, as he views it), or forcibly “healing” an X-student at the school (in what was easily Ord’s most vicious act), Ord did all he could to prove a nuisance to the X-Men. His biggest asset, however, turned out to be his gift for being the straight man. Whether it was baring the brunt of the return of Lockheed, commenting on that possibility happening twice, or getting a mouthful of Wolverine fist (mmm, mmm, mmm), Ord turned out to be a source of amusement as well as intimidation. It’s great to see a villain be able to play both sides of the field.
Ord is the classic Joss Whedon villain we’ve all come to know and love from Buffy The Vampire Slayer and Angel: big, bad, darkly witty and very much resembling an Everlasting Gobstopper. Why the last one? Because he might appear to be a simple and clichÃƒÂ© alien buttkicker on the surface, but with every layer you peel patiently away, another tantalizing new flavor is revealed as you make your way ever closer to the yummy center.
While Astonishing X-Men has been mostly about the characters on the side of the white hats and how they interact, the unraveling mystery of Ord has been a nice way to keep things interesting. When he first showed up, he was a cool John Cassaday design and not much else, but with every issue Whedon revealed a new fact to make him more intriguing. We know he’s from another dimension, that he kidnapped Colossus, that he offered a “cure” for mutants”¦but all these puzzle pieces still only leave us wondering the bigger picture.
And that “oh, it’s not that little dragon again, is it?” line cracked me up.
Ord may be in government containment for now, but his story promises to keep on captivating in 2005.
7. Darkseid (Superman/Batman, The Legion)
Darkseid is bad business. Not only did he unleash Doomsday in the United States, but he released dozens of Doomsday clones on Themyscaria. He was also responsible for the death of Harbinger. But he did try to kill Kara Zor-El, so he wasn’t all that bad.
8. Major Force (Green Lantern, Superman/Batman)
There’s so much to hate about this guy. He’s a military man who enjoys everything about soldiering a soldier is supposed to hate. He gets tolerated because he obeys orders and isn’t afraid to get his hands dirty and will nominally work aside the good guys who can’t stand his presence because the US Government insists that he work with them. Now suppose he killed your girlfriend. And then your mom. Just for the hell of it. Well, then you’d REALLY hate the guy, wouldn’t you?
That’s why Major Force is on this list. Because more than any other bad guy this year, he ENJOYS being a bad guy… and the fact that what he does is, most of the time, written off as necessary evil for the greater good. And that is the greatest evil there is for most heroes as it is the line they can’t cross to be true to the ideal.
It takes a particularly sadistic individual to make a practical joke out of murdering someone’s mom and stuffing them into the oven, especially when you’ve already done similar to that guy’s girlfriend, but that is exactly how Major Force spent 2004. Not content to just convince Kyle to hand over his ring, Major decided to get the ball rolling by reminding Green Lantern of the brutal murder of the love of his life by putting a mannequin’s head that more than a little resembled Kyle’s mom in the oven. This fella is pure class, ladies and gentlemen, pure class.
For a guy named Major Force, he displayed a great degree of subtlety. He actually convinced Kyle Rayner to hand him the most powerful weapon in the universe willingly. And by playing on Kyle’s fear of kitchen appliances (and what they contain) he proved to be a better rounded villain than most thought. And now that he’s a decapitated head floating through space he’s almost physically rounded as well.
Major Force (Green Lantern, Superman/Batman) Ã¢â‚¬â€œ Ron Marz made Major Force an interesting character. I never gave the character much thought when Ron Marz wasn’t the guiding hand. Major Force’s appearance in the closing arc of the previous Green Lantern series brought beautiful closure to Kyle Rayne’s run as the featured GL. Major Force’s return to the title for the first time in many years proved that characters are only as great as the writer pulling the strings.
9. Ultimate Sinister (Ultimate X-Men)
Brian Vaughan has done the impossible. He has made Sinister into an interesting character. Shame it turns out Apocalypse is real, though but maybe Vaughn can make me care about him too.
Gone was that ostentatious costume and the kabuki makeup of his 616 counterpart. Out was the obsession with the Summers. Heck, even the moniker Mr. took a little break. This Sinister had nothing but a gun, fearsome psychic powers, a mad on for random mutants, and a teensy bit of a problem with reality. Specifically he worshipped a store dummy. Whether the ending of this arc was real or another example of Sinister seeing things, one thing was clear. He was more than a little bit out of his mind.
10. Sublime (New X-Men)
How many villains can take credit for flooding the streets with a new mutant drug, causing a riot at the Xavier Institute, and turning Magneto into a raving lunatic, all while barely getting his or her hands dirty? I can only think of one and that would be Sublime. Not a bad way for a bad guy to spend 2004.
With all this darkness, all this danger in the world, who can we count on to stand up for us”¦the little guys? Tomorrow you’ll get your hope (and your answers) when Best Characters of 2004 takes center stage.