Jim Starlin returns to the character he helped create and he hasn’t lost a single step. This issue, like many in Villain’s Month, takes place both in the present and the past, flashing back and forth while Mongul narrates to an extremely captive audience. Admiral Pyri of the Oblivion Federation demands Mongul and Warworld’s surrender, but the massive warlord has other ideas. As he expounds upon his past, learning at a young age that might makes right and only the fittest survive, as well as leading a revolution that eventually begot his empire, he also displays the absolute power that he possesses both in Warworld’s might, as well as his well-known horticulture horrors: the Black Mercies. Starlin captures the well-supported braggadocio of Mongul without having him descend into simple villainy. He has a great sense of grandioseness and dignified power.
Howard Porter supplies the linework and does an absolutely incredible job at portraying Mongul as not only menacing, but charismatic and in-control in every panel he appears on. The incredible images of war and destruction that are splayed across much of the issue, showing the stark horror of Warworld’s atrocities and devastating tactics. This isn’t merely a flying sphere with cannons, it’s being led by a brilliant, sadistic tactical mind. Mongul displays a surprisingly wide range of emotions across his life, both present and past, and the line work is sharp and clear while the colors, supplied by Hi-Fi bring these all into stark relief. This is a surprisingly colorful book for how grim and dark the tone is, but it never feels disingenuous nor tone-deaf.
It’s odd to include a villain that has yet to appear in the New 52 in Villain’s Month as we have no pre-existing connection to the character, and not necessarily any curiosity as to his past. It’s a good story, but as a result of both introducing and explaining who Mongul is, the flashbacks seem cut a little short. There’s enough to establish the character, and he’s not the most complex to begin with, but I’d have liked to see a bit more of how he managed to raise up an empire so soon after coming to power.
There are a few panels, one in particular, of incredible brutality and the book seems to be kept at merely a T rating because the violence is being done to alien beings, even if they’re extremely human-looking ones. This didn’t bother me particularly, but it bears mentioning. Ultimately, however, this is a great issue and a tremendously strong reintroduction of a character. I’m now anxious to see how Mongul intersects with the Green Lanterns and I’d love if Starlin (and Porter for that matter) were still involved somehow. Even if you have little interest in the Lanterns, this book is worth checking out as they play basically no role in it, and if you do, this issue will be introducing you to what will hopefully be their next great villain.