Mark Russell would seem like an odd choice to write a Sinestro comic. Before he started writing the shockingly terrific Wonder Twinsin the mainstream DCU; before the critical darlings that were Exit Stage Left: The Snagglepuss Chronicles or The Flintstones; even before the too-beautiful-for-its-time Prez, Russell got his start in comics when Top Shelf picked up a book that grew out of his party trick, where he would sarcastically retell books of The Bible off the top of his head. He and Shannon Wheeler turned it into God Is Disappointed In You, and while it’s a ways off from his new project – Sinestro: Year of the Villain #1 – it’s less different than you might think.
“For me, Sinestro represents the greatest temptation in the world…the idea that we could fix everything if we just had the power,” Russell says. “He is the embodiment of the arrogance of thinking that you and you alone are somehow the most qualified person in the Universe to know things should work, and yet, isn’t that pretty much what we all secretly believe? Isn’t that simply what it is to have opinions? So I did find him relatable in that way. He’s someone who harbors great doubts, as I do, that the people in charge are actually running the world for anyone’s benefit other than their own.”
Sinestro has undergone quite a bit of change since Scott Snyder, James Tynion IV, and the crew of superstar artists relaunched Justice League.Now, rather than harnessing fear to power his ring, he’s in control of the Ultraviolet Spectrum. It’s a broad new power set, and one that was largely undefined until Russell got the chance to flesh it out in the pages of this issue. “…the big advantage of controlling the ultraviolet spectrum, at least in this story, is that it not only gives Sinestro mastery over energy and matter, but of consciousness, too. This allows him to project tiny facsimiles of Sinestros into his enemies, these microscopic Sinestros having the same thoughts and ideas about the Universe that he has,” he says.
The issue has Lex Luthor, powered up and ready to tear down the multiverse, sending Sinestro out to handle a problem that could challenge Luthor’s plans. The Paragons are, as you’ll see in the issue, a little bit Galactus, a little bit Lisa Simpson’s tooth. While on the one hand, they’re giant, unstoppable, planet eating monsters, on the other hand, they’re the most quintessentially Russellian feature of the DC Universe: THE SATIRE THAT WALKS LIKE A MAN. “They are simultaneously the church, state, and worldview of the Microns, the tiny civilization that lives inside the Paragons, constantly repairing the damage to their cells,” says Russell. “Yildiray [Cinar, artist on the issue] and I definitely wanted to capture some Kirbyesque energy for these characters, though, so they would work both as gods and soldiers.” They work, too, both as faceless drones and unstoppable forces of nature.
Cinar is no stranger to the enormous and occasionally zany world that DC’s cosmic characters occupy. He had a decent sized run with Paul Levitz on an old-52 Legion of Superheroes book. Russell tells us, “I gave him a few broad instructions, such as the Paragons needing to be big and impressive and (ideally) blue and the Microns needing to be tiny and distinguishable by their facial markings and based on those few notes, he designed these really complex and beautiful aliens.” His work here is just about perfect: clean and simple, with strong designs and that occasionally baffled, aloof face that makes Russell’s humor land so perfectly.
And while this is a one shot, Russell’s work in the DCU is nowhere near done. He’s still working on the extended-to-twelve-issues Wonder Twinsand he told us his next book is going to prominently feature one of the greatest characters in DC Comics history: the whip-toting Prince-looking assassin, Flamingo. Though in hindsight, that may have also been sarcasm from Russell…
Here’s what DC has to say about Sinestro: Year of the Villain #1:
SINESTRO: YEAR OF THE VILLAIN #1 written by MARK RUSSELLart and cover by YILDIRAY CINARAs the universe tilts towards doom, great forces awake in an effort to stop Lex Luthor’s mad plans. Dispatching Sinestro, Luthor sends the former Green Lantern to bring these old gods under control or destroy them before they reach Earth. Now, wielding the power of the ultraviolet spectrum, Sinestro finds his new foes even more dangerous and perplexing than he expected, when realizes any damage he inflicts is immediately repaired.
And here are the preview pages. Take a look!
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