SHADOWPACT No. 2
|Writer & Penciller:||Bill Willingham|
|Assoc. Editor:||Michael Wright|
Still awaiting Shadowpact's emergence from the "blood barrier" discovered in the previous issue, Witchfire and Rex the Wonder Dog take their turns in the watch rotation. One year ago, on the inside, Shadowpact are getting their collective butts kicked.
Strega, the evil sorceress leading the group of villains, the Pentacle, senses that her barrier has been penetrated by magical beings and has ["Jack"], the big red devil guy, rally the troops to take care of it. But first she puts a subliminal thought in Nightmaster's mind to split up his team (Detective Chimp being the only one who seems to realize what a bad idea this is). As a result we get to see each member of Shadowpact picked off one-by-one by their opposite numbers on the other side: Nightshade vs. Sister Shadow; Ragman vs. Bagman; Nightmaster vs. The White Rabbit; Blue Devil vs. that Jack creature, who claims to be his older brother; Detective Chimp vs. Karnevil; and finally Enchantress vs. Strega.
Each of these Shadowpact members is taken down with minimal effort. Enchantress gets it—in my opinion—by far the worst, as Strega turns her into a warty creature that looks like Clayface's retarded brother. Strega, well-mannered villain that she is, takes the time to assure her that the spell is temporary and that Enchantress will be pretty again...by the time that they kill her by feeding them all to Strega's "divine lord".
Bagman worries that keeping them alive is a bad idea—he senses some sort of omen in the fact that each member of this team of heroes mirrors each member of the team of villains in some way. Strega, however, prefers not to have their blood spilled and risk polluting her delicate spell with "magic-energized killings during the summoning period." So instead she creates a confinement matrix to keep them out of commission for the duration, while elsewhere, Karnevil prepares to do truly sadistic things to Detective Chimp.
Karnevil: Now look at this. Those nice invaders brought me a monkey to play with.
Detective Chimp: (oblivious to Karnevil) First they dress me up in a "tactical action" suit with no pockets to hold my smokes, now we split up. Lousy decisions all around.
Bagman: Oh, yes, I recognize you. You're nearly famous. Not as popular as real superheroes, of course, but I bet that's mostly due to your silly name.
Detective Chimp: Will you look at that? First a pillar of light and now a pillar of fire. This town has gone old testament in a big way.
Jack: Is Ragman unconscious yet?
Bagman: Yes, but—
Jack: Then spit him out, Bagman. You aren't allowed to digest this one.
Bagman: No fair! It's not healthy to purge after eating.
Strega: Look at you! Not even a century old and already tarted up as if you were a real sorceress. So, I assume some sort of mystical duel is mandatory?
I enjoyed this issue. It's sort of the classic "heroes get utterly defeated before making a comeback next issue" issue, but that has always been a righteous formula in my opinion, so why should I complain? Answer: no reason, so I'm not gonna.
By the way, is it just me, or does Nightmaster look to be wearing pajamas? I mean, look at him—he's got the booties and everything. Isn't he cute? I just want to pick him up and carry him to his beddy-bye. The only thing that would make that panel better would have been if Willingham had drawn him sucking on his thumb. The outfit probably isn't too far off from how a full chain mail rig might actually look, but I don't know...the red cape just totally makes it seem like he's a little kid playing superhero in his night-time clothes.
Okay, that's out of the way, let's talk about the comic. This issue contains a mystery for Blue Devil fans to unravel. If you'll check the image to your left, you'll see that the red, craggily devil dude claims to already know the Blue Devil.
"You don't recognize me, Danny? No, I imagine you wouldn't, now that I look like this." Yadda, yadda, yadda. "Still at a loss? Sure, I'm vastly remodeled, but my voice hasn't changed. You should at least remember that. Then again, you were always a bit slow on the uptake. Right, little brother?"
To which the Blue Devil replies, he doesn't have a brother. But this Jack fellow retorts that when BD made his bargain with Neron, he didn't reckon on it applying to the rest of his family. "If you think I'm grotesque, you should see what they did to our little sister! Have you seen Mary lately?"
Okay, for those of you who don't know, "Mary" is a reference to Dan's sister, Mary Frances (Dan calls her "Frank"), who appeared in BLUE DEVIL Nos. 25 and 26, and possibly others, but it has been a while since I've read that run of comics, and I'm too lazy to look into it.
As to Dan's brother...well, that's tougher. The obvious answer is that this is a new incarnation of Nebiros, who always refered to Blue Devil as "little brother". He's got the same rocky hide and everything. In fact, it seems so obvious that it's Nebiros, that it probably isn't, if only because it seems a bit bizarre to me that Nebiros would be considered a part of Dan's family for the purposes of the Faustian bargain he made back in UNDERWORLD UNLEASHED. Not to mention that Nebiros appeared looking like his usual self back in DAY OF JUDGMENT, which came after UU, so...go figure. Also, Strega calls him "Jack". If anybody out there wants to take a guess at who this guy actually is, feel free to leave a comment on this page or [e-mail me].
So that's that. What else? Well, I love how collegial all of these Pentacle villains are. Like, even Bagman is well spoken and in his way, mannerly. The White Rabbit and Strega probably take the cake, though. You can just hear them speaking in urbane, John Cleesian British accents.
No, I take it back—this Karnevil kid is sort of a dick. And the final page in which he torments Detective Chimp by discussing all of the horrible tools he'll be using to torture DC to death is, frankly, sort of terrifying. Willingham draws a rather disturbing wide-eyed, frenzied expression on the face of the bound and gagged Chimp.
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