By: Peter Milligan (writer), Fernando Blanco (penciller), Scott Koblish (inker), Brian Buccellato (colorist)

The Story: Don’t mess with this guy—he’s cuh-raaazy!

The Review: In fiction, as in real life, you really have to get to know someone before you start caring about them, one way or another.  Either their personality has to be distinctive enough to really stick to you, or you have to learn enough about their lives to appreciate what happens to them.  Anything less, and no matter how interesting their story turns out to be, you lose the emotional weight that really gives it impact.

That’s sort of the problem we run into with Shade and his Secret Seven.  Honestly, there’s a bunch of interesting bits going on here, particularly in watching the rest of the Seven (grown-up Amethyst, thieving Mindwarp, stage magician Abra Kadabra, punk Zatanna, and demonic Raven) get seriously cranked out on Shade’s influence.  Unsurprisingly, none of them are too happy Seven membership includes temporary bursts of psychotic behavior, leading to some fairly serious reorganization choices in the issue.

Plain and simple, we just don’t know enough about what’s going on to be sympathetic to much of it.  Shade’s growing suspicions of his own breakdown should be more affecting, but from the beginning we’re led to believe he’s always been a bit screwy.  Mostly we’re left wondering why no one did anything about it before, especially since the last set of Seven all (minus Shade) killed themselves in the most questionable circumstances.

It’d be helpful if we had a better understanding of how the M-Vest works, exactly.  All this dancing around whether the “M” stands for “meta” or “madness” serves only to irritate, as neither definition does much to inform you on the vest’s powers.  We know from the previous issue that Shade’s vest has evolved beyond its original capacities (whatever they are), but whether that has anything to do with its increasingly disorienting effects remains up in the air.

And at the center of all this drama is the “reformed” Enchantress, in her original identity of June Moone.  Her ambiguous behavior, as well as Amethyst’s toxic reactions to her, indicate that she may not be the best partner for Shade, but we do see some evidence in the final scene of her sincere ignorance of his increasingly erratic behavior.  That doesn’t mean she has nothing to do with it; as we’ve clearly seen with Shade, a lot of this stuff is happening subconsciously.

Blanco’s pencils would, in almost any other context, look inexcusably sloppy, but for a series that revolves around people losing their sense of selves, his art works somewhat better.  You can’t depend on him to clarify the vaguer parts of Milligan’s script, although he conveys the “madness” effects pretty well, leaving you to question, as much as the characters do, what the heck is happening.

Conclusion: For a series that ends in one issue, we still have a lot of fundamental questions left, including what the Secret Seven actually is.  You’d need a much more intriguing issue to sell that kind of confusion.

Grade: C+

– Minhquan Nguyen

Some Musings: – “Yeah, I was riding my own lousy father—”  Bad choice of words, Zee.