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The Non-Marvel Action Hour – 12/17/8

New Secret Six. Plus, Birds of Prey, Hitman, Superman: Camelot Falls, Hsu and Chan, and the last ‘Mazing Man review.

Employee’s Pick

BoP 84

[DC] Birds of Prey #81-85

Writer: Gail Simone
Pencilers: Joe Bennett (issues 81-85), Eddy Barrows (issue 85)

Black Canary and Wildcat are in Singapore buying oodles of drugs, while Huntress teams up with Savant and Creote to muscle in on the Gotham mob. Two separate plots that become a two-pronged attack on a Singaporean drug lord. BoP‘s always better when martial arts are involved, as is the case here. The drug lord hires the Twelve Brothers in Silk, hardened killers all, to protect his interests. Canary fights one in single combat, then later there’s a melee between the Brothers, BC, Wildcat, Huntress, Savant, Creote, Green Arrow (Connor Hawke), and Richard Dragon. Both fights are less than they could be, as are the Brothers, though it’s decent action.

Killer Moth

Bennett provides the series with consistent artwork for the first time since Ed Benes at the start of Simone’s run. He’s solid, if unspectacular. Not extremely good or bad at any one thing. He does enough to help make this the most enjoyable arc in a while. It helps that this is also the end of the Brainiac plot. Babs gets her nasty little passenger aborted with the help of some very special friends. Dr. Mid-Nite, Superman – even Batman drops by to remind us how soft and squishy he is under that cold exterior.

don't say that

And they kill it. Stabbity stab, Babiac’s dead. Babs is free to be Babs again, to be Oracle. Not that she was so very different with the parasite attached, just enough to be annoying, like a noise in the night that only pops up periodically but never completely stops. Just when you think you’re rid of it, there it is again, and before you can get used to it, it’s gone. Well, it’s not coming back this time, and good riddance. Huntress is. Coming back, I mean. It won’t be official for another issue, but the groundwork is lain here. Babs and Helena bury the hatchet, Babs admitting she made some mistakes and Helena realizing Babs isn’t so bad. Sometimes you screw up and that’s it. Other times, you get a second chance, and good intentions go some way toward making up for foolish actions.

New-Type Books

Secret Six 4

[DC] Secret Six Vol. 4 #4

Writer: Gail Simone
Penciler: Nicola Scott

A few things bugged me about this issue, but it’s so full of wacky goodness, I can’t help but love it. Having recovered the MacGuffin last issue, the Six begin to break down, fighting over what they should do with the supposedly powerful artifact. Simone doesn’t take the infighting as far as she might have, at least not yet; it’s basically two members at each others throats, and only one seems to want the card. I’m pleasantly surprised that this looseknit group of villains didn’t splinter at the first chance. We’ll see whether they hang together (or separately) as this story heads into part five.

It doesn’t feel like we’ve been on the same arc for four issues. I suppose there hasn’t been a great deal of plot, but each issue is so packed with great dialogue and characterization, and there’s enough advancement that it never seems like you’re treading water. It’s almost the opposite of Matthew Sturges’ opening arc on Blue Beetle, which could easily lose a couple issues of material. Simone is starting this series with a seven-issue arc, and I find I’m in no particular hurry to get it over with. Not that this should surprise anyone; the first Secret Six mini and its precursor, Villains United, were both six-issue arcs and tightly structured as well. Simone’s very good at pacing trade-length stories without obvious decompression. This series, for example, could be broken down like so:

Issue One – Intro. We meet the team – as this is technically a new series and you want a good jumping on point – and the new major villain.
Issue Two – Catman fights Batman (how can you miss that?) while the rest of the team break into Alcatraz to break out Tarantula (not the Spidey rogue)
Issue Three – The Big Bad sends a horde of villains after the Six, and we find out what the mission’s really about.

And they’ve all plenty of action and quipping. It’s the perfect superhero comic… except for the hero part. This issue, our "heroes" meet the villain, and his horde of hired help catch up to them. The way this issue ends, you’d think this were the climax, with the finale in issue five, but I can think of at least one way the big finish could be put off. I’m sure Simone came up with something good. The Six also become the Six once more this issue, finally meeting up with their newest member, the mysterious woman known only as Jeanette.

She’s one of four things that didn’t leave me smiling this issue. We haven’t truly met her yet, so it’s too early to say whether she’s a good character, but I don’t think I’m going to like her. The Victorian era hairstyle makes it an uphill battle – least aesthetically pleasing teammember since the Fiddler. I like her more than Tarantula, however, at this point. The team’s hostage is incredibly annoying. She appears to have gone insane, or at least given up hope that she’ll live through this and thus decided to make everyone else miserable. I wish someone would smack her, and yet one of the things that bothers me is a scene where Bane grabs her and puts her in a headlock while saying the card "must be destroyed." Why does he grab her? He doesn’t beat her up or interrogate her, no one else jumps in to pummel her, she doesn’t have the card, and she’s not trying to escape. As far as I can tell, Bane likes surprise headlocks. The last thing is apparently something I missed. Scandal remarks that "Green Arrow said [Catman is] not to be trusted." I don’t remember Green Arrow being in this or the prior two series. If it’s a reference to another comic, there’s no indication given, no "see issue #86 of some series you’d otherwise never read!" footnote. It could be I missed it, but I doubt that.

Potatoes of DOOM!

Regardless, it’s a recurring problem. Same thing happened in the first issue, where there wasn’t so much as a hint as to how or why the team were one short since we last saw them. Just "P.S. Knockout’s dead." It’s not like I want DC to insult me by suggesting I read DONG, which "explains" the whole business, but if I didn’t pay some attention to goings on in the DCU via the internets, I’d assume it’s a story Simone’s going to get around to telling later. Because, and this is the key, there’s no indication otherwise. This series isn’t self-contained, but DC can’t be bothered telling readers that. You either don’t ask people to buy other comics in order to know what’s going on in the one they’re reading, or you do. You don’t make it a requirement and politely decline to mention it. Not that it’s required, per se. They’re minor details, the rest of the story. I’d just like to know where all the parts of the story are and whether I’m missing any. Knowing where I can find Kay’s death sets me at ease, as knowing where the Six ran into Ollie (I’m assuming it’s Ollie) would. I might even go out and buy the issue, much to DC’s chagrin.

Back to the good stuff. Bane and Scandal’s relationship, which last issue was a mix of vaguely creepy and comic relief, is now a mix of comic relief and warm sentiment. I heartily approve. Catman continues to edge toward the darkness in a subplot that, while not as fun, is no less engaging. Maybe it’s shallow of me, but I hope there’s a redemption arc in the offing for at least one of the Six, specifically the five core members. Ideally, I’d love to see these people become heroes. Realistically, not only is that not going to happen for some or all of them, it’s probably for the best. There are plenty of heroes in the DCU, many of whom are used as cannon fodder, or forgotten once their creator stops writing them, or both (Fever! Why?!). As long as Simone’s writing them and she hasn’t made me hate them or stop caring about them, I can’t complain. They’re relatively safe from character assassination and throwaway death scenes, which is more than I can say for all too many others. Stay bad, stay you, stay alive unless it makes for a good story.

Back Issues

Hitman 35

[DC] Hitman #35

Writer: Garth Ennis
Penciler: John McCrea

Tommy’s long-lost sister shows up to tell him about his past. It’s not pretty. Lies, prostitution, and terror. The Monaghans head to Ireland, where it all began, to see things to their end.

'Mazing Man Not-So-Special

[DC] ‘Mazing Man Special #1
Writer: Bob Rozakis
Penciler: Stephen DeStefano

Not dead yet. ‘Mazing Man returns halfway through an issue of office drama and weak attempts at situational comedy. The art hits an all-time low, as the characters are barely recognizable until they call each other by name. I was sure KP and Guido were new characters until they claimed otherwise, and I still don’t buy it. Could be pod people. Really lazy pod people.

Hsu and Chan 6

[Slave Labor] Hsu and Chan #6
Writer/Artist: Norm Scott

Spun out of Electronic Gaming Monthly, these are the adventures of the Tanaka brothers, bumbling game designers, and their cute animal sidekicks. There’s little about videogames, but it’s funny, so I forgive it. Hsu and Chan evade assassination attempts by supersmart bears and one of their cute animal sidekicks, both hired by their rival, Yamamoto. Also, they go camping, for motivational reasons. It’s a bit random, and a bit silly. Good jokes, though.

bear strategy


Superman: Camelot Falls Vol. 2

[DC] Superman: Camelot Falls Vol. 2: The Weight of the World

Writer: Kurt Busiek
Penciler: Carlos Pacheco

A month ago, I owned no hardcover comics. Thanks to a sale at my LCS, I now own three. It would be four, but I hesitated to buy the first volume of this story in case the ending was a disappointment. It wasn’t. There’s less finality than I wanted – all the players end the story free to scheme another day – but it’s a largely satisfying conclusion.

Bork Bork Bork

It needn’t be as good as it is with Pacheco drawing it. He could make any old story a treat. That it’s worth looking at the words as well as the pictures is a bonus. Again, Pacheco shows off is mastery of all things fabric. Superman’s cape, Power Girl’s glove and bootcuffs, and bits of cloth that seem to only be part of the story so Pacheco can make them dance. It’s a shame there’s so much spandex in the script; there’s not as much to do with clothing that doesn’t respond to wind or gravity. My favorite panel has Superman walking along, thinking in captions, and his cape is floating above him. You look closer, and you realize why: he’s walking along the ocean floor. Because he can. Then he looks up, with his telescopic/x-ray vision, through the water, through countless buildings, across thousands of miles, perfectly into his own home to check on Lois. It’s such a Superman thing to do, and this is such a Superman story. Busiek understands the Man of Steel as few do, and with Pacheco’s help, crafts a story around him that wouldn’t fit anyone else.


It arguably fits too well. The central conceit is that Superman and other alien heroes are holding back a tide of darkness, the fall of civilization, and by doing so, by putting off the inevitable, they’re dooming the world. When the darkness breaks through, it’ll hit harder than ever, wiping humanity out once and for all. If Supes were Earth’s only champion, or one of a few, I could buy it, but he’s one of thousands. It’s hard to believe anything could lay the DCU low, even if Supes, as Busiek takes pains to remind us, is immensely powerful, and without his power, it’d be a very different playing field. If you think of the DC Earth as our Earth, only with superheroes and stuff, it’s not too farfetched… at least not until you add it all in and Earth becomes unidentifiable as ours. It’s a good thing Busiek leaves the question openended. Maybe civilization cannot stand, or maybe humanity will find a way. I know which side I’d throw my lot in with. Better to go down fighting alongside Superman than give up hope.


Birds of Prey – Good writing, better, more consistent art than usual.
Secret Six – Potato sack of DOOM!
Hitman – Tommy’s mom named him after a John.
‘Mazing Man – Never again. So boring, so utterly without purpose.
Hsu and Chan – Videogame humor without videogames. Works pretty well.
Superman: Camelot Falls – Nuanced, beautiful, and a compelling read.

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