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The Non-Marvel Action Hour – 9/10/8

The end of Young Justice, the last Usagi Yojimbo review for now, the
last Street Fighter II review ever, the brand new first issue of Secret
Six, new Fables, and old Unknown Soldier.

Employee’s Pick

Young Justice 55

[DC] Young Justice #50-55

Writer: Peter David
Penciler: Todd Nauck

Teen heroes from all over join Young Justice for their invasion of Zandia. Cue massive brawl between army of heroes and army of villains. Empress confronts Baron Aqua Sin Gaaz for the last time.

And that’s that. The series climaxes and the rest is falling action. Contrivances return Empress’ parents to her… as babies. There’s lots more fighting as Young Justice pull out of Zandia, senseless violence by heroes who’d rather use their fists than their brains. Then Secret goes berserk, which rings a bit hollow. Her father, jailed for the murder of her evil adopted brother, Harm, is on death row. Secret wants to bust him out, for obvious reasons, but no one on the team understands save Slo-bo, who doesn’t so much understand that the law isn’t always inviolable as he doesn’t care. They save him, and the team isn’t happy. Secret takes it badly. Her reaction is understandable to a point, but she goes a bit overboard. Runs off to Doug Side, comes back a couple weeks later, starts kidnapping people and generally acting evil. Thank goodness this isn’t a serious story, as it would be under current DC editorial, or Secret would kill someone and the character would be forever tainted by a temper tantrum. Still, the ending is a copout, too pat. That’s to be expected with the series ending.

Several subplots are dropped, smashed, or left dangling as the series abruptly ends with issue fifty-five. The team had agreed to film a reality show, beating the New Warriors by a few years, doing so largely in order to raise money to expand their ranks. Neither the show nor expansion got far. The Young Justice League simply ceased to be, while the show failed to approach its full potential for wacky hijinks. Really, though, the worst thing about the ending is that it is an ending. I want more Young Justice, I want to pick right up where it left off with David and Nauck. Hell, I’d read a series all about Cissie, Traya, and the other girls at the Elias School. Nothing like that seems likely, though. For now, I’ll have to settle for rereading what I have, falling in love all over again.

New-Type Books

Secret Six 1

[DC] Secret Six Vol. 4 #1

Writer: Gail Simone
Penciler: Nicola Scott

On the flipside, we have a series that’s just beginning, though it might be more accurate to call this issue seven or thirteen. It all began in the miniseries Villains United, where the Six started as the one faction stubborn or stupid enough to oppose the Secret Society of Supervillains, who cajoled or threatened most other villains into joining. After Infinite Crisis, the team got a second miniseries, the third title to bear the name Secret Six. They also did a turn in Birds of Prey, all three appearances written by Gail Simone. The one time Simone didn’t control their destiny was Death of the New Gods, known colloquially as DONG, where Scandal’s girlfriend Knockout was killed along with the rest of Fourth World. If you haven’t read DONG, don’t worry. DC’s in the process of sweeping it under the rug now; soon it’ll be as though it never happened. Or so one hopes. Anyways, that’s all you need to know about it for the purposes of this series. Kay died and Scandal is sad.

Ragdoll 10

Setting DONG aside, new readers shouldn’t be intimidated by the required reading. I highly recommend all of Simone’s Secret Six stuff, but you needn’t plow through it all before picking this up. What you miss in plot details is more than made up for by characterization. One issue is sufficient to show anyone what Catman, Deadshot, Ragdoll, and Scandal are like, as well as a brief look at the newest member, who will be more familiar to most readers. This issue also firmly establishes the series’ direction, same as the previous series. These are villains. They’re not moustache-twirling, cacklingly mad black hats, but they’re not nice people. They might want to be, but odds are they’ll never be heroes. Even anti-hero is a stretch. It reminds me very much of Deadpool, the Joe Kelly version, before the character devolved into comic relief. It was a funny book, as this is, but it was also one man’s determined struggle to be something more than he was, to be a hero, to overcome deficiencies learned or inborn and function as so many others seem effortlessly to do. The Secret Six skirt the line. Sometimes they venture toward the good side, sometimes deep into evil. They offer just enough hope that you can root for them, that you can rationalize many of their actions and place them, if not on the level of heroes, above the average villain. That and they’re far too charismatic to hate.

Fables 75

[DC] Fables #75
Writer: Bill Willingham
Penciler: Mark Buckingham

The double-sized conclusion to War & Pieces and the end of the war between Fabletown and the Empire. Doesn’t feel like it, though. Pieces shuffle about, characters die, and the status quo is irrevocably altered, but it’s all anticlimactic. The first two parts of the story established the war effort as easy sailing, and though things get tougher here, it’s little more than a speed bump on the way to total victory. There’s too little in the way of struggle. The fables have so great an advantage in both planning and strategy that it takes desperation on the Empire’s part and the Fables getting incredibly cocky to let the bad guys make a dent. Even then, there’s no sense that they ever had a chance. I am unmoved.

Now that the war’s over, what will become of the book? The whole premise was that fairy tale characters like Prince Charming and Cinderella were exiled from their magical homelands to Earth. Now they’re free to go back. The fables never really mingled with normal people, so it won’t be too jarring if they all vamoose, but it will be quite a change. I’ve hung around this far, I’ll stay to find out.

Back Issues

Street Fighter II 6

[Udon] Street Fighter II #6

Writer: Ken Siu-Chong
Penciler: Alvin Lee

No backups this time, so there’s just the dull as dishwater lead story. Ryu fights himself and Bison sends out engraved invitations to the Street Fighter tournament, which should’ve happened in issue one. Zero, even.

Unknown Soldier 223

[DC] The Unknown Soldier Vol. 1 #223
Writer: Bob Haney
Penciler: Dick Ayers

This is the old school Unknown Soldier from 1978. It’s pretty shallow. The characters are all ciphers in a stock nazi-fighting plot. The nazis’ vocabulary consists almost entirely of "Himmel!" "Schnell!" and "Ski!" Inoffensive, mildly entertaining, and extremely dated. I won’t be reading this version of the character again. It’s not a total loss, though; there’s a hilariously bad Hostess ad where kids help Superman defeat a villain with the power of Twinkies. Delicious.


Usagi Yojimbo Vol. 8

[Dark Horse] Usagi Yojimbo Vol. 8: Shades of Death

Writer/Artist: Stan Sakai

Last volume marked the end of the Fantagraphics series, so Sakai switched publishers to Dark Horse to collect the… Mirage issues? Odd, but the Mirage series was shortlived, followed swiftly by the still-ongoing Dark Horse series. The important thing is it’s Stan Sakai’s Usagi Yojimbo. And it’s good. Perhaps it’s best this is my last Usagi review for a while; not sure how many ways I can say it’s consistently good, remarkably well written and drawn.

It also stands up well on its own. This volume especially. It’s tied to continuity – we start with Usagi and Gen together, as they were at the end of Volume Seven – but this has always been a series you could pick up wherever and be entertained. The first story guest stars the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, brought to Usagi’s world by a ratman shaman who bears a striking resemblance to Splinter. Usagi, Gen, and the turtles defend the shaman from the Neko Ninja Clan, who seek to use his summoning powers to rebuild their ranks after the losses suffered during the Dragon Bellow Conspiracy from Volume Four. There’s also a struggle for leadership between Chizu, sister of the clan’s previous leader, and Gunji, who believes his equal rank and lack of boobies make him better suited to leadership.

Usagi 2

This is followed by a short about the power of prayer, then Usagi takes on Shi, four assassins who are part of the usual evil-lord-conspires-to-bilk-unsuspecting-peasants plot. Usagi runs into a group of tokage lizards in a tale that’s muted aside from sound effects and yelling; no dialogue. The volume ends with a series of flashbacks to Usagi learning valuable lessons at the foot of his sensei Katsuichi.


Young Justice – A decent ending, all things considered. I miss this book.
Secret Six – Buy it. Read it. Love it.
Fables – Disappointing end to the story that’s technically run through every issue of the series.
Street Fighter II – Blah, like always.
Unknown Soldier – Ho-hum.
Usagi Yojimbo – Good times.


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