I am an unabashed fan of Peter Milligan's "Shade the Changing Man" (or at least the first 50 issues or so). When Shade appeared in "Hellblazer" a year or so ago, I was in heaven. And when I saw that George Perez would be drawing "Flashpoint: Secret Seven" that starred Shade (and even used part of his logo), I cheered.
So what went so horribly wrong?
It would be easy to blame the comic's failure on Perez's departure (who drew most of the first issue before, presumably, shifting over to begin work on his "Superman" run starting in September), but that's the least of this comic's issues. Fernando Blanco and Scott Koblish do their best, and (Perez cover aside) it's the strongest part of the comic. It's mostly average, inoffensive art, but occasionally Blanco and Koblish hit it particularly well, like Shade's expanding and stretching face as the madness roars out of his mouth towards Amethyst.
No, as much as I hate to say it, the problem is in the writing. First, there's no plot to speak of. Shade starts telling the members of the Secret Seven to appear, and that's the long and short of it (aside from a shock ending that we'll get to in a bit). Keep in mind, we're already two-thirds of the way through the mini-series. I could understand if this was the first issue, bringing all of the characters onto the proverbial stage, but the time for set-up has long passed. With virtually nothing happening this far into the story, it's hard to hold any sort of interest.
It also doesn't help that that for a book titled, "Flashpoint: Secret Seven," most of the Secret Seven are given nothing to do save briefly appear. Abra Kadabra at least has a minor plot point, but on the whole? It's growing increasingly questionable on why, exactly, this mini-series exists.
Last but not least, there's the ending with the sudden reveal of a character having brutally died. It's hard to take this seriously for several reasons. It's completely out of the blue (and happens off-panel). It's a non-sequitur that feels like it's solely there to shock. And perhaps most importantly, it's the death of a character that we barely know and is little more than a face and name. Instead of killing someone that you're invested in, it's a random death for the sake of a random death. (And heck, this is Shade. It might even just be an illusion conjured up by the madness vest.)
This is a book I expected a lot from, but with each issue the disappointment has grown. It's rare I'll say this about a comic with only one issue to go, but I won't be back to find out if it can sink any lower.