DC Year of the Villain or simply Year of the Villain is a faux Crisis Crossover that ran through the majority of DC Comics titles in 2019. The faux part comes in that it is not a crossover in the traditional meaning of the word, merely a unifying branding and theme of books, most comparable to Marvel Comics' Dark Reign than to any other event. It's the midway point of The Dark Multiverse Saga, leading up to Dark Nights: Death Metal.
While several titles have tie-ins to Year of the Villain, they are not tied directly to one specific plotline, but rather to the theme of giving villains the spotlight and an upper hand. The books do not try to figure out where events of each series are placed chronologically in relation to one another, merely letting different plotlines evolve on their own.
There are four pillars of Year of the Villain:
- Justice League (2018), written by Scott Snyder and James Tynion IV, which has seen the rise of Lex Luthor and his Legion of Doom as the major threat and looming final war between Justice and Doom for the fate of The Multiverse. It features a plot threat unifying most of the books — in order to gather an army for the war, Luthor approached various supervillains, making deals in exchange for their allegiance.
- Superman/Batman, written by Joshua Williamson, which follows plot threads from Snyder's The Batman Who Laughs miniseries, itself a spinoff from Snyder's Justice League and Dark Nights: Metal. In it, the World's Finest discover that the last surviving invader from the Dark Multiverse, the Batman Who Laughs, has infected six heroes with his special brand of Joker serum.
- Event Leviathan, a miniseries written by Brian Michael Bendis and stemming from plot threads in his run on Superman. Leviathan, a nefarious organization of unknown agenda, has been taking down DC's various secret agencies one by one. It is now up to the greatest detectives in the world, led by Batman, The Question and Green Arrow, to discover what their goal is and who is pulling their strings.
- City of Bane, the finale of Tom King's run on Batman (Tom King), which sees Bane taking over Gotham City.
Alongside those and associated stories in other series, DC has also published a number of one-shots focusing on various villains and what role they play in these events.
DC Year of the Villain provides examples of:
- An Offer You Can't Refuse:
- Harley Quinn tie-in is about her desperately trying to avoid making the deal with Luthor, who refuses to take no for an answer.
- It appears Lex will react similarly to his alternate counterparts refusing to join him and slaughter them.
- Arc Welding: Event Leviathan continues threads from Batgirl and the ending arc of Green Arrow (Rebirth), the latter of which was cancelled in order for Bendis to use Green Arrow.
- Back from the Dead: Lady Shiva courtesy of Ras' Al Ghul
- Badass Normal: Among the Infected Jim Gordon has no powers and doesn't seem like he has gotten any due to the infection itself, but was still chosen by BWL over many powered individuals.
- Big Bad Ensemble: Not only between the core players in Luthor and Perpetua, Batman Who Laughs or Leviathan but also a majority of the books has a villain with ambitions for a big victory.
- Body Horror: What is happening to Blue Beetle once the infection takes over.
- Brainwashed and Crazy: The Infected, six victims of Batman Who Laughs who have been driven mad by Joker serum.
- In Teen Titans tie-in this fate befalls Crush, who finds herself mind-controlled by her father, Lobo.
- Composite Character: One of the parallel universe Luthor travels to is the one where everyone is Earth-32, the home of Super-Martian. It's there he meets a version of himself that became Batman (and is in a relationship with Super-Martian).
- Continuity Snarl: Every book in the "Doom Rising" month ends with the Doom symbol appearing in the sky and characters reacting to it. This means that the Justice League members who have their own books are simultaneously confronting the Legion of Doom and, at the same moment, dealing with whatever's happening in their own title. (The Trinity have it even worse, since Clark and Bruce are also also fighting Batman Who Laughs in Superman/Batman, while Diana is simultaneously confronting a Legion that includes Cheetah, fighting Cheetah in an completely different battle and confronting Circe in Justice League Dark).
- Cool vs. Awesome:
- The Aquaman tie-in is building towards him summoning an Eldritch Abomination to fight Black Manta's new Humongous Mecha.
- Hell's Arisen — seven corrupted, twisted heroes looking like they walked straight out of a heavy metal album versus THE Legion of Doom.
- Deathstroke tie-in teased this for a moment with two different ape villains, Gorilla Grodd and Ultra-Humanite, about to duke it out on Slade's funeral before they were interrupted. The book also later has a brief fight between Rose Wilson and Slade's killer Emiko Queen.
- The Corrupter: Luthor and Batman Who Laughs, in different ways. The latter goes around turning good guys bad, while the former helps already bad guys become even worse.
- The Batman and The Outsiders tie-in centers around the titular team's efforts to save a young metahuman woman, for whom Ra's al Ghul has assumed this role. Turns out it was a distraction for an attempt to corrupt Batman's two proteges, Duke Thomas and Cassandra Cain.
- Lex's offer to Catwoman is apparently meant to corrupt her and return her to her villainous ways... but doesn't. She just changes outfits for a bit to an updated version of an early villainous outfit she wore before changing back, with her tie-in actually ending with her returning to Gotham to line up with the conclusion of Tom King's Batman run.
- Corrupt the Cutie: Among the Infected Billy Batson, Jaime Reyes and Kara Zor-El definitely qualify as a "cutie".
- The Corruptible:
- The Infected, which are Supergirl, Shazam!, Jaime Reyes, Donna Troy, Hawkman and Jim Gordon all driven to madness by Batman Who Laughs.
- A tie-in for Deathstroke (Rebirth) has Jericho agree to a deal with Lex, intending to use his powers for good, while Lex waits for them to corrupt him.
- Curb-Stomp Battle:
- Joker attempts to fight Enchantress by convincing a bunch of men on the Internet she is a threat to all men but once they gather in a crowd to attack her, she just mind-controls them and sends them back at Joker, who promptly kills them.
- Right after becoming infected Supergirl proceeds to brutally murder Brainiac-1.
- Darkest Hour: It appears invoking this was at least partially an intention. Several characters seen as pillars of optimism, happiness, and moral principles in DCU fall victim to Batman Who Laughs' corruption, villains grow stronger than ever before, support networks around heroes crumble under Leviathan's grip one after another...Once Aphrodite dies, meaning the world is now literally running out of love it just feels like icing on an already grim cake.
- Death Is Cheap: Ras'Al Ghul comes pretty close to this sentiment when, upon seeing Lex after coming back to life as a human-Martian hybrid, he says "You wear ressurection well".
- Didn't See That Coming: The Legion is completely taken off-guard by Superman revealing his identity to the world with Brainiac scolding Luthor by stating this trope by name.
- Empowered Badass Normal: In The Flash tie-in the Rogues' strike a deal with Lex that turns them into these.
- Entitled to Have You: Joker's new sidekick has a crush on Enchantress and once he is rejected, Joker encourages this attitude.
- Evil Costume Switch: All the Infected get new outfits, although the extends of it vary from a new mask to a whole outfit overhaul. Taken to a ridiculous degree with Supergirl when it's not explained exactly where the new outfit came from considering that she was infected by accident during an attempt to infect Superman, lost consciousness and then woke up few seconds later, already in a new outfit.
- Evil Versus Evil:
- The December event Hell Arisen will see Luthor and Legion of Doom going against Batman Who Laughs and the Infected in the grand finale of the Year of the Villain.
- Black Adam's one-shot has him fight Infected Shazam
- The Riddler's one-shot has him declare war on Luthor after Lex decided to not make an offer to him.
- In Hawkman tie-in Shadow Thief cuts a deal with Luthor to gain new means to kill Hawkman only to find Sky Tyrant, Hawkman's Superpowered Evil Side instead.
- The Invisible Mafia from Bendis' Superman also cut a deal with Lex, to gain enough power to challenge Leviathan.
- The Joker one-shot has him pick a fight with the Enchantress.
- Exactly What It Says on the Tin: The Infected are literally people infected with Joker Serum. And pretty much all of them except Deathbringer picked new names that are this. The Scarab and Sky Tyrant should at least suggest who they are connected to if not their identities, The Commissioner literally picked up the name of a job he is well-known for as a name and then we have creatively named Supergirl the Infected and Shazam Who Laughs (which was later changed to equally imaginative King Shazam).
- Heel–Face Turn: Some of the alternate Luthor's Lex meets on his trip across the multiverse are ones that looked at their lives and made a turn for the better.
- Hope Bringer: Superman plays this role as one of the reasons why he reveals his identity to the world.
- Humongous Mecha:
- Luthor's gift for Black Manta, operated by an AI modeled after his father.
- In Supergirl tie-in the military sends out those to stop a fight between Infected Supergirl and Wonder Woman.
- Ignored Epiphany: Lex takes a trip across the multiverse where he meets alternate selves that either made a turn for the better after taking a hard look at themselves, or self destructed in finally taking out Superman. Lex kills the ones that turned to good and dismisses the dying ones as failures. Notably the only Lex he managed to recruit is an impressionable child version fresh off the abuse of his father. He doesn't pick up on the implications of this.
- Kill the God: In Wonder Woman Empowered by Luthor, Cheetah kills Aphrodite.
- Never Trust a Trailer: Solicits for Batman and the Outsiders tie-in make it sound like Ras'Al Ghul has lost his fortune and control of the League of Assassins off-panel and made a deal with Luthor to get it back. Nothing like that is ever implied in the book itself.
- Not So Similar: While both Lex and Batman Who Laughs are running around spreading their brand of corruption, their motives are quite different. Luthor is still a Well-Intentioned Extremist and believes pushing humanity towards rejecting all forms of justice and compassion will help us evolve into Universal Apex Predators. Meanwhile, Laughs' just wants to see everyone become the worst versions of themselves and watch them burn their world For the Evulz.
- Outside-Context Problem: Perpetua knows of all that is within The Multiverse and so can read all the players like an open book...except for Batman Who Laughs, who comes from Dark Multiverse.
- Red Skies Crossover: Connection many of the books have to the overall story can be minuscule, often boiling down to Luthor showing up for few pages to give someone an offer. Later, Perpetua projects the Doom sigil onto Earth's sky which is visible to and commented on by characters in other books. When she grows stronger she projects it across the universe and multiverse.
- Satanic Archetype: Luthor assumes the role of a tempter, offering great power in exchange for loyalty.
- Sequel Hook: The ending of Event Leviathan reveals the identity of Leviathan, the formation of Checkmate and the mystery of the Snowman's Ticket unsolved, all elements that would be relevant in Checkmate and Justice League (Infinite Frontier)
- Shoo Out the Clowns: After what events of Batman (Tom King) and Heroes in Crisis have done with Dick Grayson and Wally West, this event sees several other characters known for their optimism and joyful nature Supergirl, Shazam and Blue Beetle get twisted by Batman Who Laughs, further enforcing an atmosphere of darkness and despair.
- Shout-Out: Robo Manta has a mind of it's pilot's dead father implanted into it to. Sounds familiar?
- Superpowered Evil Side: Sky Tyrant isn't just Hawkman driven mad by Joker serum but the evilest of his past lives taking over his body.
- Taking the Bullet: Batman Who Laughs intended for Superman to be one of his Infected, but Supergirl saved him, at the cost of taking his place.
- Took a Level in Badass: Luthor utilizes all his vast resources to make villains who were already really dangerous become an even bigger threat. For example, both Lobo or Bizarro are each already near unstoppable and unpredictable force to be reckoned with. And Lex just handled the former power of mind-control and the latter a time-machine.
- Tragic Funeral: In Deathstroke tie-in Slade gets one - the only people attending are other supervillains, almost everyone struggles to sound like they're not saying "good riddance" and it's interrupted by Legion of Doom, who show up to make sure Slade is truly dead and try to threaten everyone into joining them.
- Trailers Always Spoil: "Who Are the Infected" promo is a big picture of Batman Who Laughs playing with dozens of chess-pieces of DC heroes, with DC promising it gives away identities of all the Infected if you just crack the code. It's true, each one holds a hand near their neck-jaw area
- Villain Team-Up:
- Ras-Al Ghul teams up with Lady Shiva for their shared goal of Turning Duke Thomas and Cassandra Cain against Batman. Ras wants to get Duke, Shiva wants her daughter.
- In Action Comics Leviathan actually teams-up with Legion of Doom to take over Metropolis.
- The Virus: The Infected gain an ability to further infect anyone they feel like, as Shazam Who Laughs demonstrates on his sister, Mary Marvel.
- Walking Spoiler: The Infected. You pretty much cannot talk about them without spoiling who they are. Taken to the extreme in that, with the exception of the Deathbringer, even their new codenames give their identities away.
- The Worf Effect:
- In Event Leviathan, Jason Todd manages to single-handedly defeat Batman, Robin, Manhunter, Green Arrow (all of whom normally should at least give him pause on their own) and Plastic Man (one of two characters Batman doesn't know how to stop if they ever turned evil) all at once.
- In City of Bane Flashpoint Thomas Wayne brutally beats down Cassandra Cain, Kate Kane, Duke Thomas, Damian Wayne, Tim Drake and Helena Bertinelli all at once, just to hype up his fight with Batman.
- After becoming Infected Shazam beats up Atlas the Great, Thor, Rao, Ares and Lady Shazam just to show how badass he is, when Billy and Marie have been shown to have equal skill with their equal powers.
- Wrecked Weapon: During Wonder Woman's tie-in, Diana's Bracelets of Submission, said to be unbreakable, are shattered by Cheetah's Godkiller sword.