Secret Six Volume 1: Villains United collects the Villains United mini-series, which relaunched Catman as a major player in the DCU, along with the first Secret Six six-issue mini-series. The best part of Infinite Crisis, the Villains United series centers around a group of villains who refuse to join Lex Luthor‘s Secret Society of Super-Villains led by the most unlikely of characters – Catman.
Despite the depths the character had sunk to in the years previous to writer Gail Simone’s makeover, I’ve always been a fan of Catman and Simone does a terrific job in rebranding the character from D-list back to A-list while still acknowledging his fall from grace. Choosing to join the team on his own, Catman became a part of the Secret Six who were controlled by the mysterious Mockingbird and sent into action with the promise of reward (and the threat of death).
The mini-series follows the group through battle, torture, dysfunction, betrayal, and more while setting up the group’s core dynamics like Deadshot and Catman’s bromance, the insanity of Ragdoll, the deception of Chesire, and the twist of a romantic relationship between Scandal Savage and Knockout.
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The Turtles’ plan begins to unfold as Krang and Shredder‘s forces work diligently to kill each other allowing Leonardo, Raphael, and Michelangelo time to sneak aboard and put a stop to the Technodrome before Krang brings it online. However, trouble unfolds with the unexpected double-cross of Baxter Stockman who attempts to seize control of the Technodrome for himself.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #43 is heavy on action featuring battles between Krang and The Foot, Old Hob‘s mutant mob and Splinter verses Karai’s soldiers (offering us a short sword battle between Splinter and Karai), and the Turtles battling their way to stop Stockman from activating the Technodrome before it is too late.
The only ones not thrown into action are Alopex (who sadly doesn’t appear in the issue) and Donatello who is likely going to face the wrath of Shredder next month as, after discovering the betrayal, the leader of The Foot orders Rocksteady and Bebop to kill the Turtle. Gulp. Worth a look.
As Leonardo, Donatello, and Raphael fight off their collective fears (including squid clowns and the Kraaang) courtesy of the Fear Mushroom, Michelangelo faces down Pizza Face who has plans to devour all of New York starting with one pizza-loving Turtle.
Despite saving the city from an impossible pizza monster (which eventually grows to Godzilla-like size) and his Mega-Pizza Kitchen of Ultimate Evil from which he plans to bake all of the city’s inhabitants, Mikey gets no credit for his save as Leonardo, Donatello, and Raphael (lost in hallucinatory fear) just assume he’s making up the entire story.
The comic’s back-up story features the Turtles struggling with a blackout. With all their favorite pizza places closed, and none of them wanting Mikey to cook, the Turtles accept their brother’s challenge of a pizza baking contest which just goes to prove that loving pizza and being able to make pizza are two very different things. Worth a look.
Romance is in the air as relationships are at the center of the latest issue of Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season Ten as Super-Andrew‘s new found powers allows him to help Buffy, Spike, and the Scoobies fight a sorcerer known as the Sculptor who creates armies out of dead flesh. As promised the magic potion Andrew took allows him to finally become his best self, which actually doesn’t have anything to do with his new powers which leave him as quickly as they appeared once the young man admits a not-so-well-kept secret to himself and his friends.
Spike has much soul searching to do as he rebuffs Buffy’s attempts to rekindle their romance in earnest for the first time since his soul was returned. Although he thinks he’s doing what’s best he quickly regrets his decision attempting to rectify the mistake. As expected the pair finally do find their way back to each other but not without some foreshadowing about about a murderous cost that could come into play in the coming months.
Romance doesn’t flow for Giles who continues to be stymied in his adolescent form or for Xander and Dawn who seem to finally be more at ease with themselves after months of awkwardness. Worth a look.
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The “who is Batgirl” storyline seemingly wrapped up a couple months ago continues in Batgirl #39. The quick revamp of the character with spiffy new costume and younger feel got me interesting in Barbara Gordon once again but my interest is already beginning to wane. Although they finally make-up at the end of the issue, Batgirl #39 continues Black Canary‘s role as pretty much the worst friend ever as she completely abandons Babs once again in her time of need as my opinion of the New 52 version of Dinah Lance continues to sour with little relief in sight.
The latest issue does introduce an unexpected villain behind the town of Burnside turning on Batgirl as Barbara finally makes a connection between her computer code and recent memory lapses. I’m not sure I buy the final panel’s tease of who is responsible, but at least it feels like the comic is leading somewhere new.
Once again the art of Babs Tarr is the highlight of the issue, but the style and look of the series in and of themselves can’t hide the fact that better storytelling is needed. For fans.
The seven-issue mini-series from writer John Raffo and artist Nur “Popia” Iman comes to a close in The 7th Sword #7 as the reluctant samurai Daniel Cray, after recovering his lost Malathane sword in the desert, chooses to return and fight alongside the small army of ZenZion against the vast array of mutants and mechs under the command of the vicious warlord Kavanaugh.
The final issue of the series doesn’t skimp on action as Cray leads the small force against overwhelming odds leaving broken bots and bodies in their wake. The 7th Sword #7 also delivers on the long-teased fight between Cray and Kavanaugh’s cyborg assassin Superfecta 5 (which takes place over eleven pages with other action mixed in).
With the mini-series coming to a close and Cray choosing to stay in ZenZion I’m not sure whether or not we’ll eventually see further adventures of the space mercenary samurai but for while it lasted The 7th Sword #7 proved to be a fun ride. Worth a look.
The first of Marvel’s new single-character driven titles, Darth Vader #1 opens with Darth Vader returning to Tatooine for an audience with Jabba the Hutt in which the Dark Lord of the Sith brutally teaches the gangster the difference between a Jedi and a Sith in a way that leaves several dead and the Hutt agreeing to whatever Vader wants. The setting is meant to conjure images from Luke‘s appearance in the same throne room from Return of the Jedi but given this scene takes place decades later in real time and years before in Star Wars chronology it feels a bit odd.
After seeing our protagonist kick butt for several panels we’re stuck seeing Vader bow to his master for forgiveness given the failures the Emperor chooses to lay at Vader’s feet. Given this encounter, and Vader and the Emperor both keeping secrets from each other, the comic’s remaining pages deal with his attempts to find the Millennium Falcon and the young warrior who he does not yet realize is his son as well as figure out just what plans Palpatine is hiding from him. Although it seems like two-steps back from the character’s journey in the recent Dark Horse title, Darth Vader #1 is a strong issue fans should enjoy. Worth a look.
The second issue of the new Secret Six continues with the entrapment of six strangers while also offering us flashbacks to Catman‘s previous incarceration to help explain the super-villain’s dislike of confined spaces such as a coffin-shaped tomb in the bottom of the ocean.
Although I think the team is still missing the right chemistry creating a void (which someone like Deadshot or Ragdoll could help fill), Secret Six #2 is a step-up from the first issue as Catman, even in his tortured flashbacks, gets to be more of the bad ass mother fucker fans of the previous series came to know and love and less of the emo douche that we saw in the new volume’s opening issue. I’m still not sold on Ken Lashley’s art which works better when the team leaps into action than when they are standing still (something they’ve done much of in the first two issues).
The issue ends with the escape of the villains who it seems are going to stick together long enough to get some answers and take some vengeance on the hidden voice responsible for their capture and torture. Worth a look.
The time-displaced X-Men’s adventure in the Marvel Ultimate Universe comes to a close as the two teams work together to take down their version of Doctor Doom. This also (rather coincidentally) leads to the return of the young mutant who has been jumping through realities unable to find her way home (at least until she gets the right kind of help).
Like most of Marvel’s current multi-issue arcs the storyline dragged far longer than necessary to properly fill the inevitable graphic novel trade paperpback. That said, even if it is two issues too late, the conclusion to the arc does offer some fun moments including the Beast‘s explosive revenge against Doctor Doom, Miles Morales getting a proper thank you from Jean Grey, and both teams being annoyed by the wisecracking of not one but two versions of Iceman.
The issue is really a microcosm of the entire arc in that it includes some fun moments but never quite lives up to the promise of its premise ultimately offering a mostly forgettable adventure. For fans.
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Velvet #9 introduces us to Damian Lake, the former head of Intel Division who may have been set-up in a similar manner to Velvet before spending a forced extended stay in a psychiatric prison. Or he may me a master manipulator, gifted liar, and completely insane. Or, what’s worse for our heroine, he may very well indeed be both. The question is will Velvet discover what is true before the man gets her killed?
As Velvet gets one story out of Damian concerning an investigation that got his team killed and him thrown into a dark hole to be forgotten we get the official account from Arc-7 as well painting a far darker version of the man. It’s likely both have some truth to them just as both are missing key details to give Velvet the information she desperately needs.
The real question is whether, after going to the trouble of breaking him out of prison, Damian is a comrade or a potential new enemy who may only complicate her attempts to learn the truth about who has framed her and arranged the deaths of two men she loved. Worth a look.
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