Villains United

I’m really in awe of the sheer scope of the recent comics on “the shelf”.  Not only in how they all tie in to one another, but how they tie into a much larger storyline as well.  Just when I think I have a handle on what’s been going on, the story gets bigger, with more players entering the fray and additional details being thrown into the mix, changing what I thought I knew.

Villains United focuses on the “bad” side of things, with emphasis placed on the Luthor-led Society and a small faction of villains who don’t want to join him, dubbed The Secret Six.  The Six consist of Deadshot, Catman, Scandal, Chesire, Ragdoll, and Parademon, individuals who are forced to join the group when the mysterious Mockingburd threatens their lives and the lives of the people they love.  With no other choice, they enter a shaky and unlikely alliance.

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The group makes a pretty intimidating force to be reckoned with, and they come up against The Society on numerous occasions. They’ve even caught and tortured at one point, but they ultimately escape and seem to be stronger than ever.

At this point we start to learn that not all is as it seems, as Luthor’s big plan is finally revealed.

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Still reeling over the events of Identity Crisis, Luthor plans to mindwipe the JLA in the same way that they mindwiped various villains in the past.  It’s a pretty grand undertaking to be sure, but it helps give a little more focus as to where this whole storyline is going.

Barely able to catch their breath from that reveal, we later learn that Cheshire was a double agent for The Society, and that a Lex Luthor double is the secretive Mockingbird.  Of course The Secret Six have an ace up their sleeve as well, as it’s revealed that not only is Scandal really Vandal Savage’s daughter, but she also has a mole within The Society in the form of her lover, Knockout.  (Bonus, yay a lesbian relationship that isn’t the main focus of the story, it’s just allowed to be!)

It’s a lot going on in this story, but it’s exciting from start to finish. Gail Simone has a penchant for writing lighthearted, snappy dialogue while still allowing for action and drama.  Each character is unique, and Simone manages to write about characters who were most definitely bad guys in the past in such a way that you actually root for them.  Sure, they may still be bad, but they’re better than Luthor’s lot.

As the comic closes, we see Catman meeting with Green Arrow. He’s been sending the League warnings about what Luthor’s planning, but it’s clear that there’s no love lost between the two.

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In a surprising twist, we now see the villains condemning the heroes.  There’s a marked shift in how heroes and villains are portrayed in these recent comics, with the stories allowing the characters to operate in the grey area of morality.  Allowing readers to question their heroes and empathize with the villains makes for a far more compelling story than the standard cut and dry good/evil mentality.

These recent stories have been a slow build leading up to Infinite Crisis, yet so much has happened that it’s never felt slow.  There are just so many tie-in comics that whatever’s going to happen, it’s going to be big.  Mistah J told me he’s been excited for me to reach this point on “the shelf” since I began reading, and given how good these recent comics have been, I can see why.  I’m reading at a frenzied pace, completing multiple trades per day (and writing a corresponding blog post for each) simply because I can’t wait to see how it all plays out.  It takes a lot for a storyline to hold my attention for this long before it even reaches the crescendo, yet the comics have managed to do it pretty damn well so far.

Now if only I could figure out how to covertly read at my desk instead of being forced to actually work for a living.  Stupid adult responsibilities.

-Jess