League of Assassins. Court of the Owls. Lady Shiva vs Strix. What should have been the best martial arts fight of the year… unfortunately turns into an attempt at comedy clashed with a poorly executed act of selflessness… At this point, I’ve pretty much given up on what’s left of this book. I was really looking forward to this final arc, but I can put that excitement to rest. In a very depressing turn of events, Simone recycles a theme that has already been used in this run of Secret Six, and falls back into poor pacing. *Sigh*
I’ve loved the quirkiness of this book, but this issue felt like it took it a little too far in moments when it wasn’t needed. Each of these characters are naturally a little odd, and Simone has done a great job of balancing that quirkiness with each plot, while not making the book a complete joke. In this issue, it feels as though she tried a little too hard to create off-beat moments of humor, and it isn’t natural – even for this group of misfits.
Last month we were graced with the appearance of (a well written) Batgirl, as she searched for Strix to warn her about the League of Assassins’ interest in her. More specifically, Batgirl wanted to warn of the general sent to retrieve Strix, Lady Shiva. When confronting Catman, Batgirl had a certain level of anxiousness pertaining to Shiva, and her fears are justified. If you didn’t start reading comics until the New 52, then you may not be familiar with Lady Shiva. And if you are familiar with her from the New 52 (her brief appearances in Nightwing or Red Hood & the Outlaws), then please try to forget those moments because they didn’t offer a good depiction.
Shiva is often considered to be the best martial artist in the DC Universe, and one of the deadliest known assassins. In the previous continuity, after taking the mantle of Lady Shiva, she went undefeated in battle for years, and even managed to beat Batman, before finally being beat by her daughter, Cassandra Cain. She has lost to other foes over time, but the losses have been very few, and I can only recall three other people that beat her in a fair fight… So you can imagine my excitement when Simone inferred that reputation on her interpretation of Shiva.
I came into this issue expecting an intense fight between Shiva and Strix – one that I fully believed Shiva would win – but the wildcard of Batgirl, Catman, and Porcelain added an intriguing possibility to the fight. But the battle I hoped for… the battle that I had pictured in my head… it isn’t found here. In total there’s less than a page of action between these characters. In fact, the action only takes up about six panels. Talk about a let down! I couldn’t help be sit on my couch and think, “Really? That’s all?”
I don’t want to spoil the story, so I’ll save the details for the breakdown, but most of this book was a miss. Simone had the opportunity to create a really nice moment for Strix, and she fell short – even outside of what I was hoping to see. On top of that, a decision that a number of characters make, feels unnatural. It was grating to read, and really took away from my reading experience. Then to make matters worse, the story jerks around touching other plots before returning to the story involving Strix. I said this earlier, but this issue was a let down.
The Art: Eaglesham and Derenick deliver as expected. As I’ve mentioned in previous reviews, I’ve come to easily notice the difference between Eaglesham and Derenick’s work despite their similarities. Overall, I’ve grown to become a fan of both artists, but Eaglesham, in particular, captures my attention more frequently. He’s improved his craft, even during the short time span of his run on this series, and in my opinion, he doesn’t get enough recognition for his work.
There were panels and pages that didn’t look as polished as usual in this chapter though. I suspect some changes had to be made to accommodate Secret Six ending, and if that’s the case, then the team potentially rushed some panels to meet their deadline. It could also explain some of my issues with the story. The art in these instances aren’t bad, but I did notice a slight lack in details here and there that I’ve grown used to seeing. But overall, the art is spot on as usual, and they managed to make Shiva look dangerous despite her terrible costume.
Breakdowns are in the spoiler tag.
The Good: Shiva. I discussed my dissatisfaction pertaining to Shiva’s portrayal in the New 52, so I was happy to see her back as a total badass… I’m not a fan of the costume (thanks Nightwing), but she still managed to somehow look menacing despite her attire (and ponytail razor). While her action sequence with the Six was incredibly short and somewhat comedic, she does kick ass, and that’s a win! There’s also a moment prior to her taking on Batgirl, Strix, and Catman where she takes on some police. As expected, she makes quick work out of them without breaking a sweat. While the altercation with the cops wasn’t needed, it was, ironically, more entertaining than the fight with the Six. Despite my minor qualms, Shiva was stoic, short in speech, and proved her point through martial arts… that’s who and what Shiva should be! Thank you Gail Simone!
Strix. The big moment involving Strix in this issue, is when she decides to give herself up to protect her friends. This selflessness says a lot about Strix’s character as a person – especially once you consider everything she’s been through. Unfortunately, this isn’t as strong of a moment as it should have been. Due to the fight with Shiva being so short, it didn’t feel as though there was enough of a struggle for her to just give up. Add in an attempted comedic moment involving Batgirl’s boots, and you completely water down what could have been one of the most memorable moments in this run. The idea was there, but the execution was lacking, and that’s a shame.
The Bad: Bye Felicia! So… The team makes one attempt (as in one move) to try and stop Shiva, then all give up? WHAT? Yes, I know Strix chose to give herself over (which I already feel was a little premature), but now the team isn’t going to fight for her? WHAT? Batgirl stopped what she was doing and left hipster Burnside to find Strix and warn her, and she just lets Shiva take Strix? The Secret Six just took on the entire magical universe to save Black Alice… but now they’re just going to give Strix a hug and send her on her way as if she’s going to summer camp? Seriously? Not believable… at all! I call foul play! And it’s even more embarrassing that Batgirl walks away barefoot… Seriously… Simone and team, you’re better than this! And I get the feeling that you know it considering half the book is trying to convince themselves (aka: readers and yourself) that this made sense…
Dibny’s. I can’t be the only one that was reading this issue, who felt side swiped when Sue Dibny was upstairs in her bedroom at the house! I’d already been side swiped once with the whole Strix bit, so I will admit I was a little miffed and unfocused as it was, but this sealed the deal. All I could think was “When did she get here?” I knew she wanted to come home from the last issue, but I didn’t recall seeing her… and then I realized that there was one panel right after the Shiva “incident” where someone asks Catman and Porcelain what they’re doing (at the house). Clearly this was supposed to be Sue, but she wasn’t in the panel AT ALL, so it took a moment to connect those dots. Whenever a reader has to stop and think, “Wait… how did we get here?” then flip back a few pages… that’s bad. We then had to deal with the Dibny’s reuniting. Yes, in theory this is nice, but it’s also weird because Sue’s history in this title. It all feels a little too forced and convenient. I will admit that it actually was nice to see Ralph turn back to his normal appearance, but the entire sequence still felt out of place. I wish Simone would have saved this resolve for the final issue of the series.
Oh… now they care. In case you’re wondering, at the end of the issue (after Strix and Batgirl have both left), the team decides they should go save Strix… I literally rolled my eyes and shook my head when this happened… They should’ve done this from the start, and the fact that they didn’t is ludicrous. This book has, once again, turned into a “We’re family! Families don’t let each other down! Let’s save her!” mission…
- You’ve been waiting to see Shiva presented as a badass.
- Strix is one of your favorite characters on the team.
- You’re all about this Batgirl cameo.
Overall: Once again, this book disappoints me, and it’s based off of some really poor decisions. If I had to make an assessment of why this book keeps falling short, I would say that Simone’s heart isn’t into it. There’s no validation for that comment, but aside from some brief moments throughout the current run, there just doesn’t appear to be much passion behind the writing… and it shows. At this point, I’m just hoping that the books improves slightly to end on a higher note.