Greetings from the Odinson,
The Villain is the Hero is the Villain
It is the summer of 2019 and DC Comics is in the middle of their crossover event Year of the Villain. Spinning out of the events of Dark Nights Metal and No Justice, Year of the Villain is the culmination of many months’ worth of plotting and scheming by Lex Luthor and his Legion of Doom. The DCU’s most dangerous cabal of villains have set out to upset the balance of power in the universe and steer reality toward the dark side, and currently they are succeeding.
In the middle of all this is a true gem – Sinestro: Year of the Villain, and as the cover states, the arch villain is On a Quest to Kill the Gods!
On the surface, this could just be another 1-shot tie-into yet another yearly crossover event that the Big Two rely so heavily on, and the Odinson would not have been surprised to see it get lost in the shuffle of all the rest. As I sat down to preview this issue, I was prepared to do just that, relegate it to the stack of read-and-forget crossover event tie-in issues. However, as I was reading, I began to become more and more immersed within the story that was unfolding before me. There are so many layers in this single issue, so much to unpack.
Right off the bat, the title of the story – “Micron Management” – is quite a clever play on words that becomes clearer the further into the tale the reader dives. Writer Mark Russell (The Flintstones, Wonder Twins) and artist Yildiray Cinar (Fury of Firestorm, Superior Iron Man) deliver a sci-fi piece with real stakes and a thought-provoking narrative that stars a perennial super villain.
Thaal Sinestro made his very first appearance in 1961 in the pages of Green Lantern #7. With classic tales like The Battle of the Power Rings, Peril of the Yellow World, Our Mastermind, the Car, and many more, he would go on to become one of the biggest Big Bads of the sci-fi driven Silver Age of DC Comics. The Odinson was first introduced to the character in the incredible Challenge of the Super Friends cartoon from the ‘70s. It was in this beloved animated series that I was also introduced to the Legion of Doom, the arch foes of the World’s Greatest Super Heroes, and the driving force behind the current Year of the Villain crossover storyline.
In the 1980s, though he was still around, Sinestro kind of got lost in the shuffle of a Post-Crisis DCU continuity. He even seemingly met an untimely and violent end at the hands of a deranged Hal Jordan (see Emerald Twilight). Then, in the new millennium, in the pages of Green Lantern Rebirth, not only did Hal Jordan get a second bite of the apple, but Sinestro made a startling and triumphant comeback as well. And, with significant roles in tales like Infinite Crisis and instant classics like The Sinestro Corps War and even two of his very own on ongoing comic book series, New 52 Green Lantern and Sinestro, the magenta-hued master of fear has not been far from the limelight since.
So, to see Sinestro, one of the greatest comic book villains of All-Time, as the star of such a pivotal 1-shot is not surprising. In fact, it feels quite earned.
Lex Luthor has become aware of a threat from beyond the stars, a threat to his plans to turn the universal balance toward Doom. A cadre of planet-destroying space gods known as the Paragons is cutting a swathe of destruction across known space, destroying every planet in their path and making their way straight toward Earth. If there is one thing super villains hate more than super heroes, it is threats to their plans. So, he assigns the task of taking care of this threat to Sinestro. He does this because Sinestro is one of his most capable allies and because he knows it is a challenge worthy of someone of Sinestro’s unique talents.
At first, Sinestro tries to meet the problem head on and engage these Galactus clones directly. Though he is able to damage them, the space giants seemingly regenerate from any injury almost instantly. Realizing the direct approach will prove useless, Sinestro, being one of the most brilliant evil masterminds of the DCU, seeks to use a different strategy. He soon discovers the secret to the space giants’ invincibility. The Microns.
The Microns are a microscopic race of people that dwell within these space giants and live out their lives in service to the Paragons. Their lives are very simple. They are born, grow up, have relationships with family, friends, and lovers, they grow old, they die, and the cycle repeats itself over and over forever. Their lifespans, most of which is spent repairing the damage done to the Paragons, are extremely short when compared to us, only 0.8 milliseconds.
Armed with this knowledge, Sinestro uses the abilities of his power ring to confront the source of the Paragons’ invincibility. At first, he tries to convince the Microns to abandon their obligation of repairing the damage to the space gods, but performing this duty is all they have ever known. As far as they know, as far as they have ever known, it is all they have ever been born to do. The Paragons are, for lack of a better word, gods to the Microns. Thus, another planet is destroyed and the space giants draw ever closer to Earth.
So, Sinestro decides to try a different tactic. Instead of trying to persuade the Microns to abandon their dogma with mere words, he infiltrates their society and influences change with action. Not force, but deed. He convinces them that “…to give your life to something that matters is to imply that you do not.” This scene is played brilliantly as it is juxtaposed against a similar scene where Lex Luthor is willing to sacrifice an army of loyal soldiers so long as his will be done.
Before Sinestro, the Microns lived their entire lives in total servitude to something far bigger than them. It was all they ever knew. How did Sinestro convince them to change? He gave them more life. Using his brain, not his super powers, Sinestro was able to expand the lifespan of the average Micron from 0.8 milliseconds up 0.2 more milliseconds.
The Microns did the rest.
With longer lifespans, the Microns were able to spend more time self-reflecting and less time working (i.e. repairing the Paragons). They developed song and dance, culture beyond just duty. They engaged in existential discussions and philosophy. In essence, they became free thinkers.
Suddenly, the Paragons begin to suffer injuries that do not heal and they are ultimately defeated. However, being the diabolical super villain that he is, Sinestro kept one Paragon alive. He did this by becoming the Microns’ “Minister of Information.” He used this position to convince the Microns inside the last surviving Paragon that they had become soft as a society and hard work was the answer. Remember, in the span of minutes in our time, generations of Microns have come and gone, having lived full lives from the cradle to the grave. So, it wasn’t hard for Sinestro to influence them into believing that the generations of yesteryear worked harder than those of today. He’d preach ideas like, “When I look around, all I see is spoiled children playing games…Your ancestors were too busy working to play games.” Basically, the old “back in my day” routine. Sound familiar?
Sinestro’s mission was a success. He eliminated a threat to the Legion of Doom’s plans. Plus, he now has a grateful space god, the last surviving Paragon, as a loyal servant, adding yet another powerful asset to the Legion of Doom’s cause.
The Odinson’s Final Thoughts
It’s a crafty metaphor for the history of mankind as we journeyed across the sands of time from pre-history to the Dark Ages to the Renaissance to the modern day 21st century.
Sometimes the Odinson ponders the folks of yesteryear. I muse, especially on some of these triple digit Texas summer days, just how did they get by without indoor plumbing and air-conditioning? Our forefathers were a hardy people, but many of them spent their entire lives working, sleeping, and working until the day they died, and usually much sooner than the average bloke of today. For better or worse, they did not have the amenities we have today. They did not have cell phones, cable television, streaming movies, and internet.
Advances in science and modern medicine have given us longer and healthier lifespans than our forefathers. We possess luxuries they could not even possibly imagine. Like the Microns, mankind is a living organism on this planet. We are born, we grow up, we have relationships with family, friends, and lovers, we grow old, we die, and the cycle repeats itself over and over forever.
What we must try to do in our all too short lifespans is try and find that healthy balance between the work and the play.
“All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.” – Jack Torrance
“Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.” – Ferris Bueller
Sinestro, a villain, sets out on a quest becoming the protagonist of the story. He liberates a society locked in servitude, manipulates that very same society and ultimately enslaves their god.
Thus, the villain is the hero is the villain.
This is Odinson bidding thee farewell
NOTE: Be sure to check out my book – The Survivors: A Glen Haven Tale. Available in Paperback, Kindle, and Audiobook.