It Takes A Villain is TWC’s
bi-weekly column about comics in which super-villains take the
starring role; brought to you by your favorite emotionally disturbed
crime lord, Mick Martin.
titles. Especially when it comes to comics, I will give something a
try just because I like the title. I think it’s because, particularly
with the still-super-hero-dominated medium, I’m used to very specific kinds of titles. Just a name. Batman.
Or an adjective and a name. Amazing Spider-Man.
When you get something that’s even just a little off-kilter, I get
excited. I Killed Adolf Hitler
was my first Jason graphic novel likely because of title. It’s not
likely but a goddamn fact that the only reason I bothered to buy the
first issue of Vengeance of the Moon Knight
was the title. I was actually a little intrigued by all the long
titles that sprung up in DC’s line after Infinite Crisis like
Supergirl and the Legion of Super-Heroes and
Uncle Sam and the Freedom Fighters.
I suspect, is one of the reasons why I’ve been chomping at the bit to
check out the 5 issue mini-series My Name Is Holocaust
ever since I started this column. I knew nothing about it. I had
taken a break from comics in the mid-nineties so, other than a few
stray issues of Icon and
Hardware, I hadn’t
read any Milestone comics. I’d never read, or heard of, Blood
Syndicate and so didn’t know My
Name Is Holocaust was a spin-off
of that series. I was browsing through a comics merchant website, saw
the title My Name Is Holocaust,
correctly assumed a lead with the name Holocaust wasn’t a good guy,
and was instantly giddy at the chance to review a super-villain comic
with a slightly nonstandard title because that’s the kind of
embarrassing shit that makes me giddy.
Leonard Smalls, aka Holocaust, boasts
super strength and explosive fire powers; and he wants to be the king
of crime in Dakota City. For that to happen, he needs a seat the the
Coalition’s table. With help from his super-powered underlings Tarmak
and the cyborg Bad Betty, Holocaust takes out Coalition members
one-by-one. He plans to either force them into giving him his
rightful place at the table, or burning their crooked organization to
the ground and owning crime in Dakota all by himself.
My Name Is Holocaust is good, but not great. But the seeds are there and the main thing that stops it from reaching its full potential is its connection to the Milestone continuity.
years ago I reviewed the trade reprint of Mark Waid’s Empire
for Comic Book Galaxy. It was
the series that got me thinking about super-villain comics
because it occurred to me Empire was
the first comic I’d read in which a super-villain was the protagonist
and yet the writer didn’t pull any tricks to gain reader sympathy. He
didn’t gut the villain by turning him into a good guy. He didn’t have
the villain forced into heroics like Suicide Squad,
Loki: Agent of Asgard or
Brian K. Vaughan’s Mystique.
Nor did he keep the villain a bad guy, but pit him against someone
who was somehow more evil
like Mark Millar’s Wanted.
Waid kept his protagonist, Golgoth, a sonofabitch from
cover-to-cover. And we rooted for him every step of the way.
five years earlier, My Name Is Holocaust is
not that different from Empire.
Like Golgoth, Holocaust is remorseless. We are given glimpses of his
humanity as he’s wracked with visions of his abused past, but there’s
never any hint that this guy plans on joining the side of the angels.
Holocaust charges into everything like a bull and has none of
Golgoth’s intellect, but his will is no less indomitable. He won’t
stop until he gets everything he wants. Like Golgoth, Holocaust
eventually does get
everything he wants and just as was the case in Empire,
once Holocaust finally achieves his goals, it’s clear he knows it
will never be enough for him. And just as Empire ends
with one of Golgoth’s lieutenants escaping his grasp and joining the
resistance against him, My Name Is Holocaust ends
with the cyborg Bad Betty planning on eventually murdering Holocaust
for the Shadow Cabinet.
My Name Is Holocaust’s
biggest weaknesses lie in its differences with Empire.
you don’t like Holocaust and you don’t sympathize with him. He’s
abusive, murderous, insecure, and doesn’t seem particularly bright.
You don’t ever really want him to win; not when he’s fighting the
cops, not even when he’s fighting other criminals. When the captive
Juniper holds a shard of broken glass over the unconscious Holocaust
but doesn’t kill him
with it, you can’t help but hate her a little for it.
crazy-as-shit determination is his only redeeming quality and the
only thing that even comes close to making him sympathetic. When he
rallies from almost utter defeat at the has-been hero Tower’s hands in the fourth
issue, you have to admire him for it a little.
Empire enjoyed a
freedom from any pre-established fictional continuity, whereas My
Name Is Holocaust assumes all of
its readers are thoroughly versed in Milestone’s narrative tapestry.
If you read nothing of Milestone but this mini-series you will learn
nothing about Holocaust’s connection with Blood Syndicate. You won’t
learn how he got his powers, or how Tarmak or Bad Betty got theirs.
You won’t even know the organization that Bad Betty is secretly
working for (I only know because of Wikipedia). You will, in fact, be
confused in the fourth issue when Holocaust is able to hurt the
seemingly invulnerable Tower with his fists because up until that
point the only super-power Holocaust displays is his unpredictable
A lot of the drama
falls short if you aren’t already invested. Holocaust and Juniper –
the daughter of the first crime lord Holocaust murders – have a
strange, complex relationship. Juniper constantly refers to herself
as being just as bad as Holocaust, but if all you know about her is in this
mini-series, all she’s ever done is watch her father get murdered and
then get kidnapped. If she’s got a lot of “red” in her “ledger,”
I sure don’t know about it and don’t even get hints about what it
Perhaps the worst
thing is that the series ends with such a weak sigh. I had to keep
checking the other side of the last page – only to find reader
letters – because I was convinced that last panel couldn’t be the
end; that maybe the copy I bought was missing a page. It feels like
writer Ivan Velez, Jr. just kind of figured the story would continue
in other comics, so why bother giving a satisfying ending?
My Name Is Holocaust wasn’t
without promise. Given a few more issues and maybe paying more
attention to the Milestone-uninitiated; Velez, penciller Tommy Lee
Edwards, and the rest of the creative team could’ve – and likely
would’ve – told a much more riveting story. As it is, the mini was
impressive enough to spark my interest in other Milestone titles;
opening up an entirely new world of super guy continuity for me, my
fat ass, and my thinning wallet.