The world of DC Comics stands on the brink of destruction. In the pages of Justice League Lex Luthor has evolved to his highest form, uniting the villains for the epic Doom War. While the stars of Batman/Superman are trying to uncover which heroes The Batman Who Laughs has infected with evil. But finally, the two supervillains will be forced to face eachother when YEAR OF THE VILLAIN: HELL ARISEN begins this December.
The new miniseries from writer James Tynion IV and artist Steve Epting brings the year-long story lines to what is guaranteed to be a violent collision. From the looks of the first issue cover art, the evil King Shazam and the rest of the Infected heroes are destined to wage war for The Batman Who Laughs. But in speaking about the new series with Tynion, it sounds like the victories stacked up by each villain may finally come tumbling down--at least for one of them. That's the good news. The bad news? No matter who ends up winning the showdown, the HELL ARISEN title is a reminder that it won't be the heroes coming out on top.
It's a safe bet that DC fans are reading either one or both of the Justice League, or Batman/Superman, with the Doom War happening in one corner, and the Infected happening in another. So with both of those stories as a backdrop, what can you tell us about YEAR OF THE VILLAIN: HELL ARISEN?
It is the culmination of both threads. Taking a step back: when Scott Snyder, Josh Williamson and I were talking about what we wanted to build out on the other side of Dark Nights: Metal, the big event a couple of years ago, we built this whole big map. One part of the map was the Justice League side of the map. And more than anything, that story was the story of Lex Luthor. What Lex Luthor would build, and what he would become, in pursuit of making Doom arrive in the universe. Basically tipping the entire psychic energy of everything towards evil. This is what we've seen in the Year of the Villain books and the tie-ins. This is the story that's really coming to a head right now. Lex Luthor has never been more powerful or more dangerous in the DC Universe.
Simultaneous to that we've had a thread that started off kind of secretly. We had a couple of issues in Justice League where we would see The Batman Who Laughs in operation in the DC Universe. Then we got the Scott Snyder/Jock Batman Who Laughs miniseries where we start to see... What is the plan that he has had in motion since he was left in this world? Now we're seeing that plan come to a head with the "Infected" storyline in Batman/ Superman.
When we first started mapping all of that out, we literally had a whiteboard and it was broken into two parts. Then at the end of those two parts there was an arrow pointing down and an arrow pointing up, coming to a head. That head was YEAR OF THE VILLAIN: HELL ARISEN. You know, HELL ARISEN stands for "HA." That was what it was on the board, these two things come together with "HA." This is the moment where we see these two profoundly evil plans for the DC Universe literally collide with eachother in the biggest, most dangerous way possible. This is the "Infection," this is Luthor's entire Year of the Villain storyline, intersecting in the biggest, most dangerous way.
Obviously nobody wants you to spoil either of the stories currently being told, but what can you say about The Batman Who Laughs as we meet him in HELL ARISEN? Apparently the darkest villain Bruce Wayne has ever faced is becoming... the Universe's only hope?
[Laughs] It depends which way you look at it. It's kind of an Aliens vs. Predator situation: whoever wins, we lose. I think the most important thing to think about when thinking about The Batman Who Laughs, obviously he has this horrific look, he has the Joker grin. But forgetting all of that, at his core he is Bruce Wayne. He is Batman. That means he is one of the smartest people to ever live. And he's one of the best strategic fighters who's ever existed. That's been the bane of our world's Batman's existence for the last few years. Because he's been out there planning something. And it is impossible to tell when you uncover part of that plan, how much he wanted you to uncover about that plan. How many contingency plans for his contingency plan does he have?
The moment that he has been waiting for--since he survived the Dark Multiverse invasion in the events of METAL--is the thing that is what comes to a head here. He has been waiting for a moment when he will have an opportunity to step up his game in a huge, huge way. The "Infection" has all been a way to get to this moment. Now Lex Luthor needs to arrive on Earth and stop him. The Batman Who Laughs getting what he wants is not good for anybody. Lex Luthor getting what he wants? Also not that good for anybody. So it's going to lead to a pretty horrific battle between the two.
The Batman Who Laughs has truly taken on a life of his own, and now adding what Scott Snyder and Jock did with that miniseries. Has your excitement just been building as the story reaches this point, to get your own chance to put him to use?
Honestly it's just been really exciting to see. I remember being a DC fanboy... it was my senior year of high school when Infinite Crisis came out. All the tie-ins, starting with the Countdown special, every different miniseries, Rann-Thanagar War, OMAC Project, Day of Vengeance, Villains United, all of these things. I was just consuming the DC Universe, and it was the coolest thing in the world. And I remember sitting there thinking, 'I hope some day I get to sit in the room planning something on this scale.' When METAL started, it was me, Scott, and Josh. Josh and I were sort of keeping an eye on all the tie-ins and everything connecting to it, and we were already talking about launching the three Justice League books on the other side. We just started talking out, what could this next big cycle be?
Every time we hit another part of it--and I'm not saying nothing's changed, or there haven't been moments where we're like, 'We're going to make this moment bigger, we're going to make this moment smaller.' Stories always evolve and change. But it's just amazing to me every time we hit a new part of this story that was part of the original vision, it's just like, 'Oh man we got there! We are here and ready to bring the next moment on!' It's really exciting because I still remember the moments we were cooking up these story beats. These are the kind of DC Comics stories I have always loved, and wanted to be a part of writing. Now I get to be, and it is literally the coolest feeling in the entire world.
The same goes for Apex Lex and his master plan with the Doom War, but what is this story going to mean for him, or what kind of new pressure is it going to put on him? Because he's never really been more unstoppable.
The thing I'm most excited for people to see in this is... we have brought Lex up to such a huge cosmic level here, he's transformed, he's got powers, he is leading this cosmic army. He is the Silver Surfer to Perpetua's Galactus. He is a fundamentally cosmic being in and of himself. But in this story we are going to see all of those advantages he now has stripped back. And he's going to have to out-think. He's always had to out-think Superman, or anyone. This is Lex Luthor and his wits against the most dangerous strategist this world has ever know. He's also the biggest ego that humanity has ever produced. So the idea that The Batman Who Laughs might be able to out-think him? That is unacceptable. And when we talk about HELL ARISEN, this is almost the story of two competing Hells on Earth. Lex Luthor has a vision for what the universe and the multiverse and all of this should be. So does The Batman Who Laughs. Each of them find the other's Hell unacceptable. Now we are going to see them try to fight. This is Hell vs Hell. Each one arguing that their Hell is better.
I know based on the cover art for HELL ARISEN #1, a lot of fans might think the "Infected" storyline is spoiled. What would you say to those fans who might pull assumptions out of Steve Epting's artwork for this first cover?
All I can say is that I promise you this cover does not reveal the heart of the story line. As it currently stands, YEAR OF THE VILLAIN: HELL ARISEN #1 comes out the same day as Justice League #38 and Batman/Superman #5. Those two stories each end in incredibly dramatic ways that then dovetail directly into the start of this series. You know, don't worry if you're only reading one, we'll take care of you, you'll understand what's going on. But if you're enjoying that story, I promise you there are twists to come that you have not seen. And will not be revealed on the cover here.
Doom War and Batman/Superman's "Infected" both seemed to have a lasting impact, but I think this is the first time that the two stories have been explicitly combined. It gives the distinct impression that fans may still not know just how big a story you guys have planned, and are unfolding piece by piece. How much farther out does this road map go?
[Laughs] all I'm saying is YEAR OF THE VILLAIN: HELL ARISEN is not the last step in the road. But we're getting close to where this big, massive story that we planned... the direction we've been pointing in for the last two years. All I can say is next year is going to be a very big year.
Fans can mark their calendars for the release of YEAR OF THE VILLAIN: HELL ARISEN #1 arriving on December 18th, 2019. And if it wasn't clear already, now is the time to get caught up on Justice League and The Batman Who Laughs sooner rather than later. Read on below for the official details and plot synopsis below:
- YEAR OF THE VILLAIN: HELL ARISEN #1
- Release date: December 18th, 2019
- Written by JAMES TYNION IV
- Art and Cover by STEVE EPTING
- DC’s “Year of the Villain” begins its sinister conclusion! Lex Luthor has brought Perpetua back from her cosmic grave and restored her power! Now, the Multiverse lives in fear that she might wipe out all existence. The only thing that could stop her are the forces of the Dark Multiverse— which means it’s Luthor’s mission to defeat the Batman Who Laughs! But if Batman and Superman couldn’t stop him, what chance does Luthor stand? Spinning out of the end of the “Justice/ Doom War” in Justice League #38 and the conclusion of the epic “Infected” arc from Batman/Superman #5, DC’s two top villains face off in a battle royal—and the fate of all reality hangs in the balance!