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Comic Review: Secret Six

Its been a while so bear with me, the last comic review I did was more condenced than a can of classic Tomato Soup.

Secret Six
on-going series: "Unhinged" story arch
DC Comics, 2009

The Secret Six are DC Comics antihero cast of washed out supervillains leading a life of mayhem against the rest of the supervillian society in the New Earth. They star now in their own ongoing series after two successful mini-series events written by Gail Simone with art by Nicola Scott and Javi Pina. This incarnation of the team began with a rogue villain coming to blows with the DC Comics’ most notorious villains in Villains Unitied (written by Simone, but with art by Dale Eaglesham and Val Semeiks), their first outing and tie-in mini-series for the Infinite Crisis event. In Villains, the mysterious ‘Mockingbird’ gathered a team of six renegade villains to fight against the global army of villains created by Lex Luthor and his inner circle in their revenge initiative for the events of DC’s previous Identity Crisis event. The story follows Deadshot, Scandal Savage, Catman, and Ragdoll; the surviving core-cast members from the original miniseries. The remaining two open seats were filled by Parademon; a runaway soldier from of the demigod Darkseid, and Cheshire, another fatal female villain. With Parademon dead, and Cheshire having betrayed her teammates and gone rogue once more, the team fills the remaining seats with other unknown or otherwise unattached villains. Recently the vacancies serve to fan appeal in adding characters that can provide a range of comedic to hardcore violent action, or a rare spots of character depth.

And give the comic a cover with Bane driving an ice cream truck.

The core cast for now:
Deadshot: the chain smoking hitman with a bullet for anybody, and just not giving a care.
Scandal Savage: daughter of the immortal Vandal Savage and openly lesbian femme fatale with a penchant for wrist mounted blades and business suits.
Ragdoll: the insanely brilliant, psychotic contortionist that is eligantly poetic as he is crazy.
Catman: the true washout richest-to-rags-to-pride anti-villian, he’s like Batman only with cats and no utility belt, and is not prone to screaming at people off screen.
Bane: the man that crippled the bat, not the Frankfurter-stein’s monster from the Joel Schumacher “Neon Lights and Rubber Nipples” film.

The sixth seat to my perspective is a toss up, between the team’s current partnering with the madam Jeannette and their ongoing relationship with a female incarnation of the former hero Tarantula whom has been vital to the story thus far. More on this later.

The opening arch for the team’s new adventure has them contracted by some unknown client to go after Tarantula, a female costumed pseudo-vigilante. Their mission involves breaking her out of prison, having her find something called “the card” and deliver her and this item to their client in Gotham City. The card is later revealed as an artifact of the devil: the “Get out of Hell Free” card and it has been the target of interest to an example of the more bizarre parties crawling around in the bottom of the DC Comics’ Supervillian underworld. Leading the chase against the Six is the mysterious and completely demented figure named “Junior.” Whom although appears to be crippled has the hand strength to tear a person’s face from their head, wants the card and will kill anyone to get it including its own henchmen.

Until now, the Six have fulfilled the first part of their plan successfully: acquiring both Tarantula and the card. They now face a number of setbacks on the road to Gotham City. Between surviving quarrels with other villains and a direct encounter with Junior, the Six have to contend to the constant bouts with each other. Targeting each other in paranoid notions about their predicament, they continuously border between betraying one another and staying alive long enough to find out who kills each other first. In some moments they do pull together in their own ways and work as a team. For every stunt as a team, the Secret Six prove they are still just as dysfunctional now than when they were solo-contract villains.

Catman and Deadshot live up to the dichotomy of the would-be team leaders: constantly debating the fulfillment of their contract and the means of doing it. Catman stands on the moral high ground trying to be the team’s cool headed, methodical leader. At the start of this endeavor, Catman set himself against Batman in a rooftop fist fight as both a distraction for the others to execute Tarantula’s prison break and answer finding session to know why they are being sent after her in the first place. Deadshot on the other hand has been face first against his teammates, voicing his outright opinion that he would rather shoot first and care later. Scandal has been working as the team’s liaison between the team’s few (and powerful) allies, including their recent pairing with Jeannette, a mysterious French madam with powerful connections around the world, and apparently mystic connections of her own. Scandal however has gone through the falling out of losing her lover Knockout. Knockout died during the follow up chapter of the Secret Six’s mini-series, Six Degrees of Devastation. As such, she has been more concerned in what she or the rest of her team would do with the card for their own personal use. All the while Ragdoll continues to provide some rather sincere, but otherwise creepy devotion for his fellow team mates amidst the team’s constant state of conflict.

The addition of Bane to the Secret Six has filled their ‘strong man’ position left vacant by Parademon from Villains, but fills in for some of the team’s missing sensibility. While no longer the Venom induced steroid-raging muscular madman, Bane has transitioned into a real character with some sense of purpose and a bound sense of honor. He has shown a charismatic opinion to the team, so far as being willing to sacrifice himself to save the others. Along the beginning, Bane proclaimed himself to act as the father figure to Scandal, whose troubled ties with her immortal father have clearly made her unapproachable. Bane has shown excellent care giving advice to her, from offering her a place to sleep and protecting her while the team drives through the desert to Las Vegas in the back of an ice cream truck Ragdoll stole.

The last two additions to the Six (or Seven for the time being) of Jeannette and Tarantula provide two sides to the team’s issues. Jeannette is briefly touched on in the later issues, as a descendent of French Nobility with a troubling, almost demonic, past who has risen to a state of wealth and power that can benefit the team on their travels from providing hideouts, medical treatment, and transportation. Like Cheshire, her position has also left the team open for a number of dilemmas, betrayal, and an all-out attack by their pursuers in an ambush while residing in Jeannette’s hotel penthouse. Tarantula on the other hand has been the target of the team’s attention. Since the Six took her, she has provided to the team’s understanding of the current situation. Between giving them the card and the information about it, she’s been able to move around without any physical restraints although she is still the team’s captive. While from experience in betrayal from the additional cast members, these two females have to contend with how the story unravels before there can be a clearly labeled Secret Six.

The artwork by Scott and Hazelwood is an equally balanced blend of looks and style. The women look hot and the character style is cool, while a nice balance of ‘heroic’ treatment is given to the rag tag team of has-been villains. This includes touching up their looks to make them more appealing to the chisel jawed, clean shaven demeanor seen in other heroes of DC Comics, and other added touches like Catman’s scruffy and unkempt ‘cowl hair’ for whenever he takes his mask off. More often, the artwork conveys the dialogue and pace of the book, highlighting sparks of action and humor. For example in a small side panel series of events, the half-animal villainess named Cheetah is paired with one random brawler villain and another with electrical powers. When discussing the chances of betraying each other, Cheetah and the brawler ignore the electrical villain, who demonstrates his powers by making Cheetah’s hair stand out in a static frenzy, with their eyes depicting their humored and annoyed attitude.

The absolute up to now:
Issue number #6 of the new series brings the team to their first direct confrontation with their nemesis Junior, including the revelation of the monster’s true identity. This issue also builds up to the penultimate revelation of whom the team is heading to Gotham City for, and the internal conflict of the team itself.

While this storyline is on the verge of ending within two months, the event has been an enjoyable romp-return for the characters. With an on-going series now, the Secret Six have to not only survive each other, but survive the responsibility of making reasons for people to keep reading. Between adding other misbegotten villains to the mix, or having them go toe to toe with other high ranking villains, the Secret Six can find plenty to do. Personally I can guarantee that I will keep up with this book if we had another cover of Bane driving a milk truck or riding on an electric scooter.

Posted 10 February, 2009 - 19:24 by Gunpla Rob