Monday, August 2, 2010

Villains United (comics)

Writer: Gail Simone
Artists: Dale Eaglesham, Val Semeiks
Collects: Villains United #1-6

Villain teams are interesting. Sometimes more-so than the heroes. While the white hats tend to work together, villain teams are rife with problems, betrayals and splits that always threaten to tear them apart. So it's not hard to see how they could make for some entertaining fiction. Unfortunately, it isn't too often that the villains get a comic or the spotlight.

Enter Gail Simone and her revamp of the Secret Six, which started here in the Infinite Crisis tie-in mini "Villains United".

As the drums of a crisis begin pounding, unflattering secrets of DC's heroes come to light in the universe at large. The main bone of contention is the Justice Leagues past of mind-wiping villains. Frightened, indignant and outraged, the villains of the DC Universe begin uniting under the Secret Society of Super Villains. But some do not. Under the orders of the mysterious Mockingbird, six villains take the fight to the Society. Not everyone will walk away from this fight.

While they're technically considered "villains", the Secret Six - the protagonists of this mini - tend to fall more under the gray than villainy. Several of them are deeply flawed, but also possess positive character traits. They're more akin to anti-heroes than anything else. They exist in the divide between the villain and the hero; disgusted by the Justice Leagues mind-wiping yet not interested in towing the line with the Society. Most of the characters end up being easy to connect to through the course of the mini and Gail Simone pulls the whole thing off well. There's also a touch of the Suicide Squad to the Secret Six as well, which I doubt is coincidence.

Unfortunately, there are issues. Chief among this being that - as the banner top the cover of the trade suggests - this mini is a tie-in to the buildup to Infinite Crisis, at the time DC's upcoming major event. As such, the mini is tied way too much to events that happened prior to it's release, such as Identity Crisis and the OMAC Project. Thankfully DC did a solid with the trade, collecting a rather generous amount of panels from comics across the line that showed the gathering of the Society. But still, it's something that bears note; the story can be enjoyed regardless, but there's a lot of Crisis-y things going on that might go over your head. The biggest offender is the revelation regarding Lex Luthor late in the book; if you're not even remotely acquainted with COIE, this one will fall a bit flat aside from a good "what the hell" reaction or two.

Also, this volume is pretty much a precursor to the Secret Six ongoing. It sets up a lot of the main dynamics and introduces many of the characters. So you could technically consider it "volume one", if you will.

The art is fantastic... when Dale Eaglesham is doing it, that is. For whatever reason, the art in the third issue is not his, but Val Semeiks. The art in that issue is capable work, but not up to the levels Eaglesham reaches, as you might get. A bit of a blemish on an otherwise excellent looking comic.

The Score: 7.5 out of 10

It relies a bit too much on it's place in the buildup to an event, but for the most part it's a good opening salvo by Gail Simone that sets the stage for further adventures with the Secret Six. Witty, well written and engaging, it's worth the read. Recommended with the caveat that a few things might not make sense to those that come into it cold.

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