If the first issue of SECRET SOCIETY OF SUPER-VILLAINS that I read, #2, was a comic book that I liked, then this next issue, #3, sealed the deal. I picked it up at my regular 7-11, and was glad to see it. So this cover represents my first encounter with Darkseid. It’s not an incredibly strong rendering of the Lord of Apokolips, but the image is still dramatic and compelling.

By this issue, editor and originator Gerry Conway had turned over the writing to David Anthony Kraft, but his ethos was still all over this issue. Once again, it’s a very Marvel-style story, with an emphasis on fighting, continuity, and characterization over plot. And even though I wasn’t familiar with many of the corners of the nascent DC Universe from which Conway was drawing (in particular Jack Kirby’s Fourth World titles, then only recently discontinued–this series represented the first sustained attempt to go back to the wealth of concepts that Kirby had left behind, and bring them into alignment with the rest of the DC line of titles. 

The issue opens on Apokolips, where the somehow-resurrected Kalibak (he had been carried to oblivion by the Black Racer in Kirby’s last published NEW GODS issue) grovels before his father, mighty Darkseid. Seems that Darkseid covertly oversaw the creation of the Secret Society on Earth to serve as his footsoldiers, but now the clone of Manhunter and Captain Comet have turned the group against him. Darkseid’s minion Mantis kicks the tar out of Comet and a bunch of the villains, causing Manhunter and the new Star Sapphire to flee, seeking out assistance.

After a brief stopover with Copperhead, who is broken out of prison by a mysterious benefactor, we come to what was and is one of my all-time favorite scenes in a DC Comic, and one that forever locked in my love for the Flash’s Rogues. While they wait for Manhunter and his team to return, Mirror Master and Captain Boomerang venture out to a nearby fast food restaurant where they effortlessly and painlessly steal lunch for the rest of their crew. It’s such a fun moment and so low-rent and simultaneously so logical that it’s colored my view of the Rogues ever since. It’s a moment and a sequence that I love.

The pair returns to the Sinister Citadel, where Sinestro, the Wizard and Hijack are going a bit stir-crazy. A brawl almost breaks out but it’s broken up by the arrival of Manhunter, who works Captain America-style to enlist the team’s help. There’s one very funny panel where Kraft takes a moment to confirm that neither Sinestro nor the Wizard is from Earth (or this Earth) and so have no reason to go along with Manhunter on this deadly errand–before they simply decide to do so anyway because the plot requires it.

After a cut-away in which Star Sapphire seeks out last issue’s guest-star Green Lantern to enlist his aid in defeating Mantis (a plot thread that will come back next issue) it’s time for action at last! The Secret Society use their powers to penetrate Mantis’ stronghold, where they take on the Power Vampire and his minions while Manhunter frees their captive comrades. In the midst of the fight, the afforementioned Sinestro and Wizard hang back, deciding that they’ll simply wait out th efight and throw in with the winners, which is a fun and appropriately super-villainy thing to do.

And the issue wraps up with Mantis retreating and the Secret Society celebrating their victory–unaware that they are clandestinely being observed by Darkseid. At this point, the big guy has had enough, and the issue closes with him declaring that he and Kalibak will make the journey to Earth themselves, and punish the super-villains for their insolence. For all that the plot to the story is pretty simple and straightforward, there’s a lot going on in this comic book, and a whole bunch of characters are given screen time. It was all pretty compelling to me as a young reader–I definitely wanted to see what was going to happen next. Even the inking by the usually-distressing Vince Colletta doesn’t suck all of the appeal out of Pablo Marcos’ pencils–he was a better super hero artist than is generally remembered.

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