Or “Will You, Won’t You, Will You, Won’t You, Won’t You Join The Dance?”

6Sec1.jpgreviewbubble.jpgThe “Countdown to Infinite Crisis” tie-in miniseries were a mixed bag. “Rann-Thanagar War” was interesting, but in trying to show us the sheer scope of a war, it ended up feeling like a series of unrelated vignettes. “Day of Vengeance” was excellent, “OMAC Project” good but strange, but in my mind, the real gem of the line was “Villains United.” Not only did it establish the Society (And who’d have thought that a concept like the Secret Society of Super-Villains would be a hot commodity in the 21st Century?) as a major-league threat, it rebuilt the six main characters from the ground up, and proved that ANY character can be the Next Big Thing given a good enough story and competent writing.

Post-IC, the DC Universe is a much different place, and no one knows this better than the members of the “Secret Six” (though none of them refers to themselves as such). Having crossed the Society more than once, all six members are painfully aware that they could die at any given moment. Some, such as Deadshot, are accepting (some might even say happy) to deal with this deadly new status quo, while others see the real shape of things to come. Catman, Deadshot, Knockout, The Mad Hatter, Ragdoll and Scandal have now proven themselves to be as big a threat to the Society’s goals as any superhero, and thus are to be treated with extreme prejudice. After last month’s throwdown with the Doom Patrol, Six members Knockout and Deadshot “accidentally” end up celebrating in a rather… um, visceral manner. Knockout’s lover Scandal finds them post-flagrante dilecto, and has an equally visceral response to seeing her lover in Deadshot’s arms.

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It’s a tribute to artists Brad Walker and Jimmy Palmiotti you feel worse for Scandal than you do for Deadshot. Well, almost. A foot in the face is the great equalizer, I suppose. Scandal beats him senseless as Knockout repeatedly asks Scandal, confused, why she’s upset. (Knockout, being from Apokalips, doesn’t have the same morels that we do, and was simply celebrating their victory.) The other members of the Six get involved (or in the case of the Mad Hatter, simply watch with voyeuristic joy), but Scandal has had enough.

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I’m reminded of the old proverb of a woman scorned. Brrr… Scandal goes home, leaving the Six behind. Unfortunately, “home” means back to the arms of her loving Daddy, Vandal Savage, one of the most dangerous men in the DC Universe, and also an immortal madman. The members of the Six slowly come to the realization, together, than something isn’t right… If Scandal wanted a weaponless, naked Deadshot to be dead, he would be dead. Moreover, Knockout believes that Scandal’s love for her would override even this sort of betrayal. No, the team realizes, Scandal left for her own reasons, the anger at Knockout and Deadshot serving only as cover, a clever ruse. When they attempt to figure out where she’s gone, no one has a clue, until The Mad Hatter gets involved.

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“…I’m smarter than ANYONE.” Can’t fault him for confidence, and, in his defense, the Hatter HAS faced down Batman on multiple occasions. It is the Hatter who realizes that Scandal has returned to her savage old man, and that she’s done it to protect Knockout from her father. (Of course, he gained this knowledge by bugging ALL his compadres quarters. It’s rather fitting that the Batman villains are as paranoid as The Batman himself.) Scandal has come to agree to Vandal’s plan, to breed the perfect offspring for him. With Catman, the desired father, no longer an option, Savage falls back to a second choice. Indeed, he falls all the way to the bottom of the barrel, and introduces Scandal to her sperm donor… Doctor Psycho.

As an aside, the good doctor is an example of the most pleasing thing to come out of Infinite Crisis: with a level playing field, even the most ridiculous villain can be rehabilitated into something menacing, or even, in Psycho’s case, something truly frightening. A lackluster Wonder Woman villain back in the day, his appearances post-Crisis have run the gamut from disturbing to downright disgusting (see the last few issues of “Manhunter” for THAT story), and he’s up to his usual obnoxious mind tricks here. With that bombshell dropped, Vandal laments that he and his daughter have never been close. Scandal responds, “No. We’ve never been close. At least not close enough…”

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Immortal or not, that’s gonna leave a mark. As Scandal attacks her father, the rest of the Six attack his stronghold, cutting a swath of carnage right to Vandal’s door, and, unfortunately, to the diminuitive feet of Doctor Psycho. He immediately uses his powers, trying to force Deadshot to kill Catman. Then comes the moment I’ve been waiting for since the first issue of “Villains United,” lo, those many months ago. Doctor Psycho gets his comeuppance.

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Heh. Dwarf humor aside, that was a complete “Hell, YEAH!” moment for me, pushing this issue past good to “awesome!” Sadly, moments later, Vandal uses his ace in the hole, and takes the Hatter out. His hole card? Former Six traitor Cheshire. We leave our heroes (and I use the term as loosely as possible) at their lowest point, essentially powerless in the stronghold of the one enemy none of them wanted to make, with Scandal challenging her immortal father to fight her to the death. Whatever happens, we’re guaranteed an explosive resolution next month.

As much as I love this title, I have to say one thing: This is not a title for the young or the squeamish. Sex and violence are constant themes, and all the members of the Six are truly nasty types. They’ve chosen a third side, somewhere between hero and villain, but they’re still nobody’s role models. That said, I really enjoy this book, finding the darker aspects of a team of true “bad guys” fascinating, and (with the exception of the occasional reference to cannibalism) less horrifying than you would have expected. Gail Simone has, once again, created a group of personalities that are fascinating to watch, even though it’s hard to understand them or their choices. Each issue leaves me with the feeling that ANYTHING can happen, and I don’t have 100% faith that all (or ANY) of the protagonists will live through next issue. The art is expressive and clear, the faces are very distinct and emotive, and the writing is top-notch. Combine that with a “can’t miss next issue!” cliffhange, and Secret Six #5 earns a well-deserved 4 stars.

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Discuss this issue in the Major Spoilers Forum.

The Author

Matthew Peterson

Matthew Peterson

Once upon a time, there was a young nerd from the Midwest, who loved Matter-Eater Lad and the McKenzie Brothers... If pop culture were a maze, Matthew would be the Minotaur at its center. Were it a mall, he'd be the Food Court. Were it a parking lot, he’d be the distant Cart Corral where the weird kids gather to smoke, but that’s not important right now... Matthew enjoys body surfing (so long as the bodies are fresh), writing in the third person, and dark-eyed women. Amongst his weaponry are such diverse elements as: Fear! Surprise! Ruthless efficiency! An almost fanatical devotion to pop culture!

And a nice red uniform.

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