This week: The new Secret Six take center stage in three of the week’s offerings.
Note: the reviews below contain spoilers. If you want a quick, spoiler-free buy/pass recommendation on the comics in question, check out the bottom of the article for our final verdicts.
The Infected: Scarab #1
Writer: Dennis Hopeless Hallum
Artist: Freddie E. Williams II
Colorist: Jeremy Colwell
Letterer: Thomas Napolitano
Cover Artists: David Marquez & Dean White
At the beginning of the month we got a better introduction to the first member of the Batman Who Laughs’ Secret Six, King Shazam. This week we get introduced to the second member of this new team, the infected Blue Beetle, calling itself just Scarab. Continuing a trend started by Sina Grace in The Infected: King Shazam, Dennis Hopeless Hallum is here with his first DC Universe work, (a trend that will continue with Zöe Quinn’s The Infected: Deathbringer).
While I haven’t been over the moon about the Secret Six as a concept in this form, I will say that I’m being slowly swayed by their appearances. Both King Shazam and Scarab gave us good insights into what makes these corrupted versions of very pure and innocent heroes. That’s not to say I’m completely convinced, but I’m less concerned than I was at the announcements of which characters were going to be infected.
Freddie Williams’ art as always was absolutely beautiful, though there were times some of the anatomy on characters got away from him, especially Paco. The exaggerated anatomy on the Scarab really worked to sell the horror aspects of Jaime’s transformation, and truly Williams did a good job of making those scenes as grotesque as possible.
Writer: Joshua Williamson
Artist: David Marquez
Colorist: Alejandro Sanchez
Letterer: John J. Hill
Continuing the story of the formation of the new Secret Six is the book that introduced the concept. Here we learn more of the Batman Who Laughs’ plan, and why he’s specifically targeting the heroes he is. He also fills his collection in this issue but not in the way he expected to.
There were two things that I particularly liked about this issue. The first is that the issue actually does a very good job of establishing motivations for several of the infected heroes. Skytyrant’s we saw a bit of in his debut issue of Hawkman, but here it becomes even more clear that he feels robbed of his time in the spotlight as just one of Carter’s reincarnations. Gordon is tired of being a stooge and left in the dark by Batman.
But the one that feels the most real is actually one of the two characters I was most worried about in this story. Donna Troy is one of my favorite characters of all time, and she’s been woefully mistreated in recent years. So when she was announced as one of the Infected, I was leery of the idea. Williamson alleviated my fears in this issue, by clearly establishing what drives her fall to darkness. Over the last year and a half, she saw her ex die at the hands of one of their best friends, and another of her best friends shot in the head. She blames the Justice League for these tragedies and I can’t say I blame her for that.
The other thing that I really liked in the issue was the hint of what’s going to be the Achilles heel of this new Secret Six; their egos. This is cleverly illustrated with Skytyrant and Deathbringer sniping at each other, and by Gordon being more focused on not being embarrassed by Batman anymore.
Marquez and Sanchez beuatifully illustrate this issue, with very dynamic fight scenes, and wonderful character studies. Surprising nobody, I adored their rendition of Supergirl before her infection, and even liked her transformation. The art in this book so far has been stellar, and I’m going to be sad to see Marquez leave the book in February, but that is tempered with Nick Derington taking over.
Writer: Marc Andreyko
Pencilers: Eduardo Pansica
Inker: Juan Ferreira
Colorist: Chris Sotomayer
Letterer: Tom Napolitano
Cover artist: Dan Mora
The last of our three issues this week featuring the Infected, is Supergirl #36, though chronologically it fits right in the middle of Batman/Superman. While that issue showed us what happened to infect Supergirl, this issue gives us a closer look.
Bookended with two fights with Brainiac, most of the issue takes place during and immediately after the big fight from Batman/Superman which gives us an opportunity to compare and contrast two different depictions of the same events. For my money, I think Marquez portrayed everything better, from the action of the fight scenes to the emotions of the characters. Most striking is comparing the moment the infection takes hold of Supergirl. Pansica and Ferreira do a serviceable job with the moment, but it is nowhere near as striking as the scene delivered by Marquez.
While Batman/Superman did a good job of selling me on the corrupted Donna Troy, Andreyko doesn’t do quite as well delivering on the infected Supergirl. While Donna is one of my favorites, Supergirl will always be my absolute character in fiction, and since her return in the early 2000’s I’ve sat through time and again attempts to make her dark and edgy, while many ignore the things that make her great in the first place. Maybe the rest of the arc will make me believe, but right now I still don’t like the idea of her being a part of the Secret Six.
- Flash Forward #3 continues to be vastly disappointing for me as a Wally West fan. But even more so for me as a Roy Harper fan. This is the second time in the last two years where I got to see a version of Roy Harper die. Especially jarring is the whiplash that comes from the beautiful Doc Shaner covers juxtaposed against Brett Booth’s interiors.
- Superman’s Pal Jimmy Olsen #5, on the other hand, was everything I wanted it to be. I’m pretty Batmanned out, but I could find myself reading Matt Fraction’s Batman forever.
- DC’s continuity regarding Tim Drake right now is an absolute mess. He appeared in both this week’s issues of Batman and Justice League in his Rebirth Red Robin costume, but in last week’s Young Justice he finally made it back to his own Earth, but in his new Drake costume. Editors, I beg you, talk to each other.
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