An interesting aspect of Villain’s Month is the chance for creators who don’t normally work on a specific title to try their hand at it, thus giving the readers something new for a month. Matt Kindt takes the reins for Earth-2, telling the story of Solomon Grundy’s return to the planet from where Alan Scott previously left him as well as filling in the avatar’s backstory, beginning over a century ago. We get a very similar Grundy to the one we’ve previously seen in this title, which is to say he’s not a hulking, idiotic brute, but neither is he quite as loquacious as he previously was, which serves the character just fine after the trauma of his last appearance. He crashes into a desert outside a major city and slowly makes his way there, destroying all the life he can come across in the process. While this is going on, we cut to Slaughter Swamp in 1898 and see a rural couple struggling to make ends meet working in a slaughterhouse. Events take a turn for the INCREDIBLY grim and we see what appears to be the beginning of Grundy’s rise to power.
Aaron Lopresti handles pencils, with Art Thibert on inks and Michael Atiyeh on colors, and here the book shines. Grundy’s massive frame still somehow looks like it’s barely holding itself together, and his body language gives a great testament to his nature as incredibly powerful, but still in a state of constant decay and renewal. He looks profoundly uncomfortable merely existing and his actions are also gloriously rendered with great fluidity from one panel to the next, particularly as his atrocities intensify.
There’s simply not enough meat on this bone to satisfy. Far too much takes place in the present, and what is there jumps forward without rhyme or reason as the flashbacks seemingly fill the time it would take Grundy to complete his various treks on-foot. His power is obviously reduced in the wake of his defeat, but it doesn’t feel like we need to see as much of him in the present as we do, it’s a little too reminiscent of Doomsday’s original emergence, because it cuts the flashback scenes EXTREMELY short. We barely get a feel for the characters, and as such, we don’t really feel for them on anything but the most superficial level when tragedy strikes. Time seems, again, to jump rapidly ahead and things happen at such a breakneck pace that it’s difficult to truly take them in, especially as the events have a tremendous amount of gravity (or at least should). The infamous Grundy poem makes an appearance as well, but what happens on which day seems to vacillate between past and present. This may be intentional, but it’s hard to tell.
I think the book’s main problem is that it could have had half the pages that take place in the present cut and used to increase the pages that take place in the past. If you’re going to explain a villain’s tragic backstory, it helps for the reader to be able to find some kind of sympathy or SOME way to identify with what the characters are going through, but as it is, everything happens too fast to form any kind of meaningful attachment. It’s still an interesting origin story, and the art really deserves to be seen, but it’s far to scattershot to form a truly meaningful narrative.