Posted - October 2010 | Updated : August 6, 2011 | April 26, 2012 | August 23, 2015
Villains United and Infinite Crisis
Back in the day, Marvel decided to showcase it's top heroes and villains in a miniseries. They called it Secret Wars. Possibly unknown to them, and to the rest of us at the time, they created the prototype for the comicbook 'Event'.
An event is a limited series showcasing a major storyline affecting an entire comics universe and involving some or all of the current stories being published about that universe.
Secret Wars was so successful that Marvel followed it up with Secret Wars II. Then it was DC's turn. Crisis On Infinite Earths was a gigantic event that affected the DC multiverse and it changed the event landscape by including crossovers to ongoing issues that showed how the event was affecting these individual issues. Crisis had around 116 crossovers.
Infinite Crisis, the event to which Villains United belongs, ups the ante. In addition to crossovers it had four separate miniseries leading up to it. Villains United is one of those miniseries.
I consider it the best of the Infinite Crisis minis. Eaglesham's art plays no small part in that. This guy draws gorgeous artwork; the women are particularly sexy. And the art should be good because Gail Simone's story is extremely engaging. It's really a classic tale at its core : A bunch of hard-luck heroes (hard-luck villains?) up against ridiculous odds. Star Wars, Young Guns, the Forever People, take your pick, the formula works. And it works because right from the start the tension and suspense of such an arrangement is engaging. It's the how-are-they-going-to-survive suspense.
For those of you who haven't read Villains United you are in for a treat. For those of you who have, this tale is definitely worthy of a re-read. Enjoy.
Weeks before I bought Villains United. I was coming home from work and staring at it through the shop window. The comicbook shop people were wise enough to pick it as one of the fifteen or so books they displayed right out front.
From the start we are shown Luthor's Secret Society of Super-Villains doing the recruitment rounds. Sad to say I only recognize a handful of the costumed baddies they're talking to. I view this as a good thing since it means I have to read more comics. Anyway, they get around to Catman.
Catman is both a Batman and Green Arrow villain. He used to be a millionaire who specialized in hunting jungle cats. He lost his fortune and went into a life of crime, becoming a burglar. He had this suit made of ancient African cloth that gave him nine lives and healed his wounds. This brought him to the attention of the Batman. He was eventually defeated by Batgirl and landed in jail.
Having learned nothing from doing time, he resumed his criminal ways, at one point partnering with Catwoman, who left him because of his abusive attitude. Having no luck on his own he joined a super-villain team called the Misfits. That didn't quite work out either.
At this point Catman became depressed and began putting on more weight. This dispirited Catman was no match for the Green Arrow. Before his current appearance, he was last seen being abducted by Titans villains Monsieur Mallah and the teleporter Warp. Obviously, he survived that little episode and is now back and looking fit.
babeshot: Talia al Ghul
Then here's Deadshot:
He's an assassin, extremely accurate, uses wrist guns and, as you can see, wears a cool costume. But what makes Deadshot dangerous is his attitude: He wants to die but he doesn't want to kill himself. So he has a death wish and it makes him fearless. It makes sense that he used to be a member of Rick Flagg's (or is it Amanda Waller's) Suicide Squad. I love the way he's being portrayed here; just kicking back and smoking during a fight. He's also drawn pretty massively which shows up well against the equally massive Catman.
Cheshire is here too, last time a I saw her was in an issue of 'Tales of the Teen Titans'.
Cheshire is a French/Vietnamese martial artist/acrobat who specializes in poisons.
Next up: Ragdoll and Parademon. Both characters are appearing here for the first time.
Rag Doll is actually Ragdoll II, the son of the original Ragdoll. I last saw the father back in the pre-Crisis days of the JSA/JLA team-ups (those stories are good, I'll have to dig up my old issues and feature them here too).
I wonder what's in it? And I wonder why no letter to the Bat c/o GCPD since Batman is also one of his foes. GA must have done something atrocious, at least I'm assuming its a resentful letter.
Okay, so they recruit Catman into the Secret Six and take him to the HQ. Now check out the HQ:
I am so happy to see this. This is the House of Secrets, one of the most storied addresses in the DCU. Back when I was a kid, my aunt used to buy me superhero books and she bought horror comics for herself - sometimes it would be an issue of House of Secrets. In the pages of Sandman there were also references to the House of Secrets and the other house, the House of Mystery being in the borders of the land of Dream. Living there just adds to the cache of the Secret Six and their secret leader (or is it blackmailer?) Mockingbird. The comment of Scandal that it is perpetually windy around the House of Secrets is such a nice touch by the writer, Gail Simone.
Catman is making a Denver Omelet, I didn't know what a Denver Omelet was before this.
babeshot : Scandal
Here we have a shot of the down-on-his-luck Catman that went up against Green Arrow.
Look at Black Adam:
You'll notice throughout the series that no matter what the others are doing, even when they're sitting in the board room, Black Adam does not change this pose - he just keeps floating, arms crossed. It comes across as stupid. The more I read about Black Adam the more I consider him to be DC's Namor - but you wouldn't catch the Submariner being so aloof and keeping to a single pose.
Then we have a gorgeous two-page spread, I won't ruin it for you by showing it here. I'll just focus on two babeshots from the spread.
babeshot : Knockout
babeshot : Killer Frost
Going back to this two-page shot, it shows some members of the Secret Society of Super-Villains confronting the Secret Six. Looking at this, it just occurred to me how massively outnumbered the Secret Six is - I mean the complete roster of the Secret Society is 200 members. Deadshot, who was a member of the Suicide Squad, must feel right at home with these Secret Six suicide missions.
The issue ends with Catman showing his true and new colors. I don't think Green Arrow will have an easy time of it if ever he has a rematch with Catman. Batman, on the other hand, will still be able to knock Catman out, no problem.
Artist Dale Eaglesham was too sick to draw the next issue so Val Semeiks took over the art chores. The change isn't dramatic, though Semeiks art is a bit more angular than Eaglesham's and slightly less polished.
Issue no. 3 answers the question: How tough is the Secret Six. Answer: impressively tough.
Somehow it makes sense that a torturer comes from the dental profession.
Of course, Parademon, having grown up under the tutelage of Granny Goodness in Apokolips thinks torture is a form of fun. Granny Goodness is one of a host of characters created by Jack Kirby for DC that make up the so-called Fourth World comprising the twin god planets of New Genesis and Apokolips. She is the brutal headmistress of the children in Apokolips.
It's the little things like this comment from Count Vertigo while playing . . . monopoly? He he, nice touch, poker is so cliche. At least they were drinking beer not root beer.
Here's a shot of the high council of the Secret Society of Super Villains:
This is actually the third iteration of the Secret Society of Super Villains. The first Society was brought together by Darkseid. The second one was organized by the Ultra-Humanite and went up against the combined JLA/JSA teams.
Once again, I don't want to spoil things, let me just say that this issue had a very engaging build up of tension, nicely paced by Gail Simone, leading up to the powerhouse ending.
This issue must have been judged by DC to have the best cover of the bunch because they used the cover for the trade paperback.
Check out the fabled poisoned claws of Cheshire.
babeshot: Scandal Savage in costume at last. Check out the Lamentation Blades.
babeshot: Queen Bee.
I came back to reading Villains United from a really long haitus. Seeing Jason Rusch as Firestorm was a bit of a shock to me. I used to collect the original issues (the second series in the 80s) with Ronnie Raymond/Martin Stein as the Firestorm matrix.
This issue opens with a one-on-one fight between Monsieur Mallah and Catman. It's a revenge thing for Catman. Before the events of Villains United, Mallah kidnapped Catman with the purpose of eating him. Get his ass Catman!
Parademon shows off some motherboxes that he got from enemies of his. Motherboxes are extremely capable multi purpose devices from New Genesis. The wonder gadget of the Fourth World is what a motherbox is. Parademon must be truly accomplished to have obtained ten. Note the distinctive Jack Kirby design of the boxes.
Another awesome two-page spread. The second in the series. I won't spoil if for you by showing it here. Just be satisfied with piece of it -a babeshot of Giganta.
The captive of Luthor is Pariah. He's one of the then new characters created for the Crisis on Infinite Earth's event. He's fate in Crisis was to always appear on each world before it got destroyed by the Anti-Monitor. Seeing all those deaths again and again has turned him into a whining ball of jello and one of the most annoying characters in comicdom.
This is my pick for this issue's best quote.
After all these years of reading comics its rare to see a new rendering of a particular power, so virtuoso's deadly playing is particularly enjoyable to see:
Who's going to win, Deadshot or Deathstroke?
The Secret Six went on to further adventures, starring in their own series. They even threw down with the Birds of Prey at one point. Deadshot would eventually go back to the Suicide Squad. Membership changed radically when then leader, Scandal Savage, was replaced by Bane.
Regarding the Society, they wanted everybody in, except one villain in particular - the Joker. Supposedly because he was too dangerous. Luthor probably feared that the Joker would be a serious threat to his leadership. Needless to say Batman's arch-foe did not take kindly to this, and some Society members got the the worst of it from him. You'll have to check out Infinite Crisis for this side story.