Event Leviathan Brings Espionage and Mystery Back to the DC Universe

The DEO, ARGUS, and other secret DC Universe organizations are in trouble, and Event Leviathan is the biggest DC Universe mystery of all.

It’s the Year of the Villain at DC, and it should be no mystery that Brian Michael Bendis and Alex Maleev’s event Event Leviathan will be one of the many things upsetting the status quo for the DC Universe. Following a thinning of DC’s black-ops and covert government agencies, the six-issue miniseries gathers the universe’s greatest detectives to find out what, and who, is the new Leviathan.

Currently the prelude “Leviathan Rising” is unfolding in Bendis’ Action Comics, with a prologue chapter in the 25-cent DC’s Year of the Villain issue (on sale today) and the Superman: Leviathan Rising Special, available May 29. From there, Event Leviathan launches June 12.

In the first issue of a story arc Bendis calls “monumental,” the DEO, Spyral, ARGUS, SHADE, Doom Patrol, and even the Kobra Cult are reduced to ash — and Batman and Lois Lane are standing on ground zero of a potential new world order. The events appear bigger than Talia al Ghul’s Leviathan, and as events unfold, it would appear everyone is a suspect.

But the real puppet master in DC’s whodunit is Bendis, who joined Den of Geek for a preview of Event Leviathan, and offered up teases about the detective story, which super sleuths are involved (including the return of The Question), and why he and co-publisher Dan DiDio decided to cull the DC spy agencies. He also discusses why eagle-eyed readers will be rewarded.

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Den of Geek: Before we delve too deeply into the miniseries, in Part 4 of “Leviathan Rises” (Action Comics #1010), an undercover Lois and Clark go into a store called Coates’ Books. Care to deflate those internet rumors that you were teasing the arrival of Ta-Nehisi Coates to DC?

Brian Michael Bendis: [laughs] I don’t use the real estate of the page for secret messages to other comic creators. I could email him. It is a reference to a crime writer [Ian Coates], but I appreciate everyone immediately went to me using the pages to send secret messages.

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Within that bookstore, though, there are several mystery and espionage titles (Three Days of the Condor, The Janus Directive, The Manchurian Candidate). Is this a tease of what’s to come?

I like it because it gets into the mindset of the story, which is there are secrets to figure out. People are looking all through the artwork for clues. I also wanted to reference other literary experiences nodding to excellent genre mashups of spy and something else. And I love throwing out titles like The Janus Directive. There are fans who may not know how cool that story is.

At the end of a mystery tale, we often see all the threads coming together, and realize the answer was right in front of us all along. Will that be the case with Leviathan?

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Yes, and to add to that, the audience will see the red herrings Leviathan put out – and specifically why it relates to the characters. There will be false clues, but even those are clues. It’s very Agatha Christie.

Who are the underestimated detectives of DC you’re enjoying playing with?

The Question, which I’m happy to be re-introducing to the readership. He/She was off the table for so long, so re-introducing The Question has been a real joy. Also Green Arrow and Plastic Man. And no, I don’t mean Elongated Man. Plastic Man has a very specific expertise here.

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Why should these very different personalities work together?

These detectives are all being set up because they are high-end suspects for who Leviathan is. Not only are they trying to prove who Leviathan is, they are also trying to prove it’s not them so they can get back to work. Part of what Leviathan is doing is causing a smattering of distracting clues and false leads because he is not done with his opening salvo. And he needs Batman talking to the wrong person for like six more hours before they’re done. The detectives figure this out, and now have to work together to solve this literally before dawn. Whatever bad happened in Action Comics was just the table setting for what’s coming next.

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You just said “before dawn,” so how much time does the miniseries span?

It is a very concentrated amount of time, but I don’t want to say too much. What’s interesting to me about the series is Alex and I were specifically looking to attack this story as a different kind of event. In doing so, we have a detective event along the lines of Murder on the Orient Express, or Death Trap, or Sleep – very intense psychological detective thrillers. It is a head scratcher, and you have to think like Batman.

What are the different styles of sleuthing these characters excel at?

You have the reporter Lois Lane, facts first, unpack it later. You have got Batman’s detective philosophy, which is all over the place, but very specific to clues no one else sees. He has trained his brain to look at the world unlike anyone else. The others have specific experiences, which I’ll get to in the story. And they are interrogating each other, on top of everyone else. Not only are they suspects, the people around them are as well.

What was the conversation between you and Alex Maleev about the artistic approach for this story?

Over many years we’ve been offered a lot of stuff at DC, but I could tell Alex wanted to do a Batman thing with me. We had a scratch that never got itched. When I was coming to DC, and said we were going to do creator-owned stuff at DC, he literally said, “and Batman!” That’s how much it meant to him. He had been working on the style he’s been doing in our book Scarlet for the last couple years. He has been working at this level, and style, for a few years. It got developed in Scarlet, and when he applied it directly to our story in Detective Comics #1000, we said this is what our book will look like. After many years of working together, it was the most shortcut of conversations.

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How paranoid should the readers be? Should we trust the heroes?

We don’t know whose word to trust, but we will know at the end. People don’t like to not trust everybody for a long period of time. So, by the end of the series, you’ll know who Leviathan is, why they did what they did, how they did it, and what’s going forward. And what’s going forward is a pretty enormous thing for the DC Universe.

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Not only is this story being told, but a shape is being set in DC for villainy that will open up a lot of story for a lot of people. From the 25-cent issue, I think people are going to be surprised how much this is going to impact Batgirl, and Green Arrow. And at the last page, we drop a bomb in dialogue. Nobody is safe. There are a lot of suspects here, and they are all valid.

You quickly clean house of all the various spy agencies within the DCU. Is this a new status quo?

When I first came to DC, Dan DiDio sat me down and said one thing that bothered him about the universe was we have 40 organizations that do the same thing. They were all created out of love, and by good people. But it’s so redundant it’s hard to tell a potent story. The idea of doing, “and then there was one” of the organizations, but that organization becoming too big to handle is exciting. So it’s a no backs on the status quo. These organizations are gone. But they are being replaced by some things that will be revealed in Event Leviathan, and pulled out into the DC Universe that will hopefully be the best version of the things people liked about the other organizations. It is consolidating it down to something anyone can understand.

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What is the balance is giving each of these characters their moment?

Batman is walking us into a crime scene, but when he gets there, there are four or five suspects, and each of them are detectives with a unique experience. Batman and Lois introduce us into this story, but it’s going to go in other areas. People know Batman is not Leviathan, but everyone else is up for grabs.

Who else’s detective skills will readers be surprised by?

I have intentionally not been mentioning Kate Spencer, Manhunter. I haven’t mentioned Damian, and there’s stuff behind Green Arrow that’s pretty interesting. And in the very first issue is Steve Trevor. The suspect list is going to get pretty high, pretty fast.  

What are companion pieces readers should check out between issues to continue the mysterious tone?

I am going to be that during the whole event, and tweeting out reading lists, because I had such a great time doing research for this. If people are into it, they’ll want to read what I read. Our research for this went pretty deep. I spoke at Langley, and have been there a couple times. We have been doing research for this for a couple years.

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Do you have any advice to readers diving into this as they try to figure the mystery out?

It’s a mystery story, and those are tough on the internet. People announce they know the answer. I can’t respond to everyone’s answer, and say some are right, or some are wrong. I have to be cool, and let it unfold. So, let it unfold. The things you’re feeling in the first couple issues, you may feel very different about by issue five, or six. Stay open minded. It is such a dangerous story, and I know some fans are going to get very worried.