Exalt and rejoice! Back from the dead is the team of merry misfits that encouraged everyone to root for the underdogs; “Secret Six” is now officially a part of the “New 52”. And this book comes back swinging, taking that weird, off kilter humor and amping it up to eleven. To make the statement that it’s come back to its former glory is a bit bold however. The book was good and a fantastic reintroduction to a concept we as fans love and it was accessible enough to allow for new readers unfamiliar with the team.
Let’s start off with the basics, what is Secret Six and why would DC endeavor to bring back a book long since dead? Good question, hypothetical voice of the audience, Secret Six, written by the incomparable Gail Simone, was a team of dregs, the biggest failures in the entire rogues’ gallery of the DC universe all assembled in one place. So now we have to ask if this newest incarnation lives up to the precedent set by the previous team. Well considering I haven’t even heard of most of them, I’d say that’s a big check mark.
Of course we have returning superstar Thomas Blake, aka Catman, the fiercely attractive wild man that makes me shiver like hypothermia. Next we have Big Shot, a D-lister detective who can swell slightly in size—and believe me, Gail Simone made the best of all the jokes one could make about a man swelling. Next on the roster is Porcelain, a woman super villain with the power to make things brittle. After that, there’s a mute mummy by the name of Strix who is already filling the role of adorable psychopath on the team. The next two members are an interesting pair, Shauna Belzer who is the new female Ventriloquist and her dummy Ferdie. Not my favorite incarnation of the character but if anyone could make me love something gross and weird, it would be Gail Simone. The last member… the last member is a returning favorite of mine and true to form she is just as goth-y and sarcastic as I remember her to be from the previous incarnation, Black Alice. True, there are some notable vacancies on the team, Ragdoll and Deadshot being the most prominent but Gail Simone has hinted at more returning members to be making appearances which makes me just aquiver with anticipation.
The book is not without its imperfections however. All of the characters and action are compelling and incredible. However, Gail Simone may have been a bit eager to really “Cat Up” Thomas Blake. It’s the same Catman we love—just really amplified. The stoic, pride leader from the past is buried within the character, but for right now he’s more of a Tom Cat than a Big Cat. Other than that the fault primarily lies with the art. Now I’m echoing what a lot of reviews are saying, the art wasn’t consistent. To me, it wasn’t enough to degrade the story. Was it noticeable? Sure, the art started off with this rugged line art that made everything seem dirty and damaged, much like the feeling of the team itself. This type of thing happens in comics on a regular basis—however, it’s usually six or seven issues in after they are having trouble keeping up with deadlines. This book just started, if this continues to be an issue it stops being a small niggle and is instead a full blown problem.
So how does this return to glory compare with the classic of old? More importantly, how does it compare to something that is phenomenal at characterization, plotting and action? In other words, “Secret Six” versus “Invincible”. Well, on a straight up Kirkman versus Simone comparison, Gail Simone always comes ahead on personality and characterization. I can name so many individuals that left an impression on me from the “Invincible” universe. But the average fan? I’m not so sure. However, almost every single character Gail Simone puts down on the page is memorable and also useful to moving the story forward. The place where Robert Kirkman pulls ahead is plotting. He is the master of laying down a linear story that is both unexpected but is a complete logical progression. When Mark “went rogue” to team up with Dinosaurus, we all saw his dissatisfaction with the standard formula for fighting super villainy so it made sense for him to change gears. True, Gail hasn’t done enough on “Secret Six” to see a progression but so far all of the action has been very reactionary. I will say that she is excelling at building anticipation; the cliff hanger at the end of this book is killer—eh? Eh?