About a quarter of the way into the book, the heroes are killed off by an invading force. It’s done quickly and easily and it provides two things: we know the opposing force is incredibly strong, and we see that all is lost unless the villains step up to save the day. It’s an interesting premise and yet isn’t like “Thunderbolts,” which could be an easy comparison. These villains remain nasty throughout and build their own tension while also holding dramatic interplay amongst themselves.
Meeting all of the characters, and world building, can be a tricky thing to pull off in a venture like this. There are the analogues that can be relied upon but in the end these people need to become their own members of history. It is all done relatively fluidly and while you might need to flip back a few times to make sure you’ve got the large cast straight in the end they are cool characters. None of them jump off the page as being classics but they easily propel the story forward.
Our lead character is Femme and she’s the most interesting. She comes across as more of a cat burglar, not some maniacal menace. She grounds the tale in a way most of the other villains could not. Zen, an extremely smart and just as sociopathic villain, is an excellent foil to the entire tale. You can see that he just doesn’t care. He is the sort of broad evil often used, but here used to good effect.
In the end, these characters are evil so it’s no surprise when they commit dastardly deeds. You know they won’t all play straight and nice with each other, there will be no hand holding and group singing around this campfire. Ultimately, I would have liked to see this angle played up more. These are the bad guys, so they could have been made much worse. They do wrong where they can, but I wanted to see them really devolve into the blood soaked dystopia they could have wrought. In the end, many villain tropes are used effectively and there is an undercurrent theme that humans are inherently evil. We destroy, we deceive, and every person has within them the capability for very bad things. It’s an interesting view and does give the flip that we can all do good as well, it’s just not as easy.
Padilla’s art is serviceable but often led to confusion of characters and who was speaking. The characters came off as a little waxy at times but the story was still there. Some of the character designs were most effective, with Melvin (a shout out to Marvel’s Gladiator, perhaps) really looking and acting the part. I feel with a separate inker this could have looked much more polished.
The hook of this book is good, and mostly it delivers on it. The ending is a tad generic and I felt there were a multitude of more visceral angles to explore, but it’s effective to some degree anyway. A more effective angle might have been to go as dark as possible with this tale but instead Eisner does want to inject some good into the tale. It is the triumph of the good in people over the nasty that makes the theme of this story. It’s a wicked little tale of inherent human evil and definitely worth checking out as this publisher finds its feet.