Yes, this is actually published by a US company, but the artist and writer originate from the UK, and well that's close enough for me.... Look MY blog, MY rules. Actually I was going to cover this last month but the final issue was delayed and so I didn't pick it up until the other day so you're getting it now instead. I am broke, so unfortunately I am what is called a "Trade waiter" or someone who can't afford to buy individual comics. But when I read that Garth Ennis and John McCrae would be reuniting to bring us a six issue miniseries based on the team of utterly useless "heroes" from their Hitman series, I ran to my local Forbidden Planet and said "here, take all of my monies". And I felt I needed to support this endeavour because I want DC to know that if they release awesome comics, by awesome writers and artists based on much loved concepts, they will profit from it. When they did a universal reboot in 2011 called "The New 52", it wiped out all of the DCU's prior history and we got tiresome, grimdark reimagined versions that seemed to be aimed at teenaged boys circa 1992 but with the characters that were in place during The Silver Age, which also resulted in many popular legacy characters being retconned out of DC history. This gave it a somewhat schizophrenic tone in the main, and the few series that tried to be imaginative and quirky as well as mature, such as Dial H and Frankenstein (both of which I have praised on this very blog) were cancelled fairly quickly. I've ragged on overall execution of The New 52 quite a bit since I began this blog, but after another reboot earlier this year called "Convergence", The New 52 is no more. Our long, national nightmare is over! Huzzah!
Convergence melded elements from all DCU timelines, and the new attitude behind it seems to have mainly bought back a sense of fun and freshness to the DCU. Rather than a crippling attempt to adhere to one rigid history, we're getting a more relaxed attitude to continuity and some interesting versions of old friends. It seems to be nicknamed the DC "Youniverse" now, and outside of this miniseries there are plenty of series I am planning to pick up in trade when the first wave are released. But like I said, this was different, I wanted it now. While The New 52 groaned under the weight of editorial meddling and constant crossovers designed to keep the universe straight, the DC Youniverse appears to be a place where series and miniseries can exist in isolation and not rely on reading a different series to get the full story.
The story begins with a montage of pre-New 52 heroes battling enemies alongside the original Section Eight, before ending with the statement:
Narrator: "And when the day came that the others fell in battle it was Sixpack who stood alone and sacrificed himself to save the world."
Sixpack sacrificed himself to go fight Lovecraftian demons in their own reality and it was heavily implied he returned, got clean and found a new life as plain, ordinary Sidney Speck. Then it is Sidney Speck we join as he attends a gallery opening in his role as an art critic for which he is much admired.
|Back in Noonan's sleazy bar.|
Sixpack says to Hacken that he knows there is a "threat" and he has to "stop it". He has to get the team back together and starts phoning potential teammembers. He ends up with Bueno Excellente, Powertool, Guts, The Grapplah and Dogwelder II. Sixpack is confused as to how Dogwelder can be alive but Dogwelder II silently brooks no investigation and Sixpack drops the issue.
|Section Eight mk. II|
Hacken: "He shoots big wads of disgusting white fluid that hardens round people before crumbling them into dust, and he's the demon lord of criminal insanity..."
Sixpack agrees and Baytor becomes member number seven. With one spot left to fill, Sixpack sees Batman parked outside and rushes out to try and recruit him.
Batman ignores him and goes to the cashpoint to get some money. He returns to the Batmobile and finds a traffic warden writing him a ticket. He shouts "I've bent over backwards to help you people...!" The traffic warden, who is black, says dryly "you people?" Batman blusters a bit and she leaves telling him he has thirty days to pay. Still ignoring Sixpack pleas, Batman tosses the ticket away and drives off leaving Sixpack alone.
|McCrae is gonna make a mint of the original art here.|
Back in Noonan's, Sixpack has decided to try and recruit the Hal Jordan Green Lantern. The others are playing cards and Bueno Excellente starts flirting with Guts, who is female. Sixpack briefly blacks out and hears voices saying "Just hurting you. Same again. Over and over. Forever".
Then Sixpack returns to reality and yells, "we godda joina Green Lantern Corpsh!" On the roof the seven of them wearing Green Lanter T-shirts chant the Green Lantern code. Then Sixpack gets out a box containing a "slutty vampire costume" and says one of them has to be Star Sapphire.
|A demented plan in action.|
Guts goes to change out of the costume in the toilets and Bueno Excellente spies on her. Then a mysterious voice bellows, "stay thy hand Sir Bueno of the Excellence." The voice says he is not the only one who wants the "heart of the fair maiden Guts." And the voice reveals itself to Bueno Excellente, but not to the reader. Yet.
|I don't think Ennis likes Hal Jordan.|
We return to Bueno Excellente and his unseen challenger, who we finally get a look at. He is an enormous tapeworm living inside Guts called "Sir Percival Orifice, Tape of the Worm". He challenges Bueno Excellente for the hand of Guts saying, "gird thy loins for what must sorely follow".
|Sir Percival has a waxed moustache! Hahahaha!|
J'onn: "Word of your return has travelled far Sixpack.. Heroes everywhere have heard the news."
We then get a double page spread of DC's top heroes discussing them, not very complimentarily but J'onn says he "came as soon as he heard." Bueno Excellente and Sir Percival are about to do battle to the death, Sir Percival says "the choice of weapons falls to you". Bueno Excellente grins.
Sixpack tells J'onn he's been having doubts. He keeps hearing voices telling him "it's the same adventures, the same stories, the same endings, over an' over. Forever." J'onn says that doubts are something all heroes have. He gets insulted all the time for how he looks and dresses. The best thing to do is:
J'onn: "Seek out the one thing that defines us. That gives us meaning. That gives our likes the meaning we crave. Take us into action".
|The closest Section Eight mk. II gets to action.|
J'onn says he'll join him in a moment, he needs the bathroom. Before he goes in the Grapplah warns him "Bueno and this tapeworm guy are having a perve off." J'onn goes in anyway and is greeted by a soul scarring sight.
He screams in horror and flies out of Noonans by the quickest route through the ceiling. Sir Percival gives in but Bueno drags him back to finish him off and Section Eight are down a member again, alas.
|Sorry J'onn, what has been seen cannot be unseen.|
She tells Sixpack not to contact her again or "you'll find out what an Amazon warrior does." She departs saying that any superheroine who would join them would have to have brain damage. As she walks outside, Baytor who is fixing the sign accidentally belts her in the face with a huge mallet and well, this happens.
|Be careful what you wish for Sixpack..|
Powertool says that from a feminist perspective "we're on very dubious ground." Grapplah dimisses him saying women are happy "knitting and shopping and cooking dinner for her guy" Confused, Sixpack asks Hacken about "this equality thing." Hacken says "if a woman wants to do something no one should stand in her way... even if what she wants is incredibly ******* dumb."
Wonder Woman keeps bouncing gleefully round the bar, Sixpack introduces Bueno Excellente and Guts to her when they return. When she is told Guts is Bueno Excellente's girlfriend she declares "now we can have a wedding". So Bueno Excellente and Guts get married by Baytor who reads from the Book of Revelation. The ceremony complete, Bueno Excellete "kisses" Guts, although actually he does something to her so filthy we can't be shown. The others throw up, while Wonder Woman giggles and says "that's naughty".
|A special day.|
Wonder Woman: "It's all a waste of time, Sidney. You need to stop it. Haven't you realised it yet?"
When Sixpack asks who Sidney is, Wonder Woman denies saying it and departs the bar leaving a bewildered Sixpack in her wake.
The next issue starts with Sixpack alone half-passed out on the bar floor when the Phantom Stranger comes to visit. He's been reimagined as a rapper, complete with backing singers. It's probably the weakest issue in that respect because while funny for a couple of pages, the joke is overstretched at around half an issue.
|Hip Hop-tastic Phantom Stranger.|
They go to Limbo, the place where souls go when they aren't good enough for heaven but not bad enough for hell:
Phantom Stranger: "Saints go to heaven, Hell's for killaz: Limbo's for fools is just kinda vanilla."
|The original Section Eight sans Dogwelder in Limbo.|
Friendly Fire: "He welded dogs to people for *****'s sake! Where the **** do you think he is?"
When Sixpack said Dogwelder was a hero, Friendly Fire says that superheroic crap of his got them killed and how come "you're a wandering soul still attached to a corporeal body?" They show him something that Sixpack doesn't want to face and them he finds himself back with the Phantom Stranger outside an art gallery in the snow. Round the corner is a naked man lying in the snow.
Sixpack: "Oh the poor guy. He's so cold."
Sixpack: "I-I just don't know if I can keep doin' this. I think somethin's changed. I think all the stuff I thought might be wrong..."
Then, to everyone present's shock and surprise, Superman appears at the door to the bar and invites Sixpack to join him, greeting him as an "old friend" and that it's time to go.
|Superman getting ready to give a pep talk.|
Superman: "I find it inspiring. Whatever troubles I have seem somehow less before its majesty."
He then asks Sixpack what troubles him. Sixpack repeats the fears he told Martian Manhunter. That he's having doubts about this whole hero thing, that maybe he isn't a hero, "I think I'm just a pathetic loser. I think maybe I ain't even real."
|Sixpack admits his doubts.|
There wasn't any heroes, power rings or cyborg armour. If your parents got shot in front of you you ended up "a basket case." You got a shot of radiation and you died.
Sixpack: "But it was more than that. See, I even without alla that, there wasn't no heroes 'cause it was too hard to be one."
Superman agrees that it is a "bleak notion". Then he asks Sixpack if he is aware that in ancient cultures there was a belief that "One of the Gods dreamed the world into being?" Everything in his dream existed and if the God awoke the dream would end and so would the world. "Then you better hope I don't sober up, I guess" says Sixpack sadly.
Back at Noonan's, Dogwelder II's wife has arrived. When she realises her really is her husbacn she takes him outside where his kids are waiting. He starts to take the welding helmet off but as he lifts the visor, one of his kids brings out a small dog. Dogwelder II fires up his welding torch and the action cuts to the watching Baytor and Powertool as a scream sounds off panel.
Back with Superman and Sixpack, they have left the Fortress of Solitude and he says to him, that if he isn't a hero then "how exactly do you explain that?" And he shows him the statue his friends erected to him in the Hitman series after his sacrifice against the Many Angled Ones. Sixpack is overwhelmed, and Superman says "it's going to be Okay Sixpack" and hands him a bottle of whiskey.
|Nice callback to Hitman.|
Powertool's drink gets knocked on the floor and when Powertool powers up his suit, standing in the liqiud causes him to electrocute himself. Not keen on facing a terrible threat, Baytor goes and hides in the cellar. So Sixpack goes out as the narrator speaks of a world of wonders:
"A place where men and women walked through fire, or soared amongst the fabirc of the stars, or conquered within the fabric of reality itself. All that good might be triumphant...This is his world. His dream. Whichever. As dreams go.. well..I suppose you could do worse"