Warning: SPOILERS for Event Leviathan #5
The DC Universe is finally getting its own version of Marvel's malicious mutant Magneto. Since departing Marvel, Brian Michael Bendis has been making his mark across the entire DC Universe. He's about to reveal Superman's secret identity to the entire world, and most recently created a malevolent villain in Event Leviathan. Now, after finally confirming Leviathan's identity, Bendis has revealed he has grand and sinister plans for the mysterious mastermind. The kind of plans that could turn DC's latest supervillain into their very own "Magneto," one of the most complex and sympathetic comic book villains of all time.
Even before Bendis' event, Leviathan had been a villainous organization lurking around the DC Universe for years. The organization was a major player in Grant Morrison's epic Batman: Incorporated series and, as terrorist organizations go, Leviathan was as big and malevolent as they get. But since jumping to the DC ship, Brian Michael Bendis has reshaped the organization to his own ends. And he's only getting started.
The head of Leviathan was recently revealed to be Mark Shaw the Manhunter, a group with somewhat unclear, retconned, and altered origins. While named for the android soldiers exiled by the Green Lantern Corps -- and the similarities are there for readers to consider -- the motivations of Shaw's master plan are his own. And it's the effectiveness of that goal, and the devotion he shows that make Mark Shaw a very dangerous man to the DC Universe. In a new interview with CBR, Bendis explains how he envisions Mark Shaw and Leviathan as DC's version of the warlike Marvel leader:
It's much more layered and about the government and people [being] sick of the way the world works; you know what Mark is selling. I wrote this down, and people know my philosophy about this, that Magneto is probably the best villain, because you can have a conversation with Magneto... and he's not wrong. What he's saying is very arguable, but what he does is wildly incorrect -- historically, I'm not talking comics in the past couple years. So with that in mind, Mark's argument, other than his actions, is part of what we want to have fun with here.
Magneto is undeniably one of the most "layered" villains in comic book history. A character with a rich and storied history that, as Bendis points out, grants him a dangerous ability to garner sympathy and understanding. And that's one of the most reliable weapons at Magneto's disposal.
The similarities between Leviathan and Magneto have nothing to do with wielding metal, but everything to do with motivation. Magneto's plans and schemes are almost always violent and nothing short of terrorism, but his stance on mutant equality in the X-Men universe isn't 'wrong.' Mutants have faced constant persecution in Marvel's world, adding some much-needed context to his ultimately extreme worldviews. According to Bendis, Shaw is going to have a similarly sympathetic argument. It also seems Leviathan's story will be informed by the current political climate, and his reflection of the public opinion that "the way the world works" needs to be changed.
Magneto can manipulate one of the most abundant resources on the entire planet, but time and time again he's shown his ability to divide teams, forces, and entire governments with nothing more than his words. His opinions on the way normal humans treat mutants are absolutely fascinating... if you forget his willingness to completely eradicate the human race. But for those mutants who've spent their entire lives being persecuted by that same human race, Magneto's words can be incredibly inviting.
He might not be the MOST dangerous mutant in the Marvel Universe, but he's brought the world to the brink of destruction numerous times. By the same token, Mark Shaw certainly isn't the most powerful metahuman in the DC roster. But right now, he's the most dangerous. A man whose goal isn't to destroy Superman but to give him a world worthy of protecting. That might sound appealing at first, but as Leviathan is driven to more extreme lengths in the coming months, there are bound to be a few casualties and victims. Hopefully Superman and the Justice League can stop him quicker than their X-Men counterparts.
Event Leviathan #6 is in comic book stores now.