Or – “Is It Okay If I Cheer, Now?”

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There has been much discussion at Major Spoilers in recent months about whether we follow titles, characters, or just our fave-rave creative teams from book to book.  Some say they’ll read anything with Spider-Man, some say they gotta finish that run of Avengers, others insist that they only read Brubaker, and anybody else is just Folger Crystals.  I actually subscribe to an odd melange of the three, as well as a tendency to want to read interesting arcs (like the “Club of Heroes” bit in Batman some months back) of things I normally wouldn’t read.  But in Secret Six, we find the Total Package, the Ultimate Warrior, the Texas Rattlesnake, the Heartbreak Kid…  Wait, sorry, that started one place and ended just repeating wrestling nicknames.  In any case, this book represents characters I’ve always liked, (Deadshot especially, ever since I read his reintroduction in Detective Comics from like 1977) a title I’ve collected forever, (I started picking up the original Secret Six issues from 1968 before I got married) and creators that I would crawl over glass and bathe in rubbing alcohol to read (the superlative team of Gail Simone and Nicola Scott.)  Game, set, match, DC wins 3 bucks a month.

Previously, on Secret Six:  Waaaay back in the late 1960’s, DC was getting experimental, trying to find a way to make a comeback against that upstart company that Goodman character was running across town.  SS2.jpgOne of their attempts (alongside books like The Creeper, The Hawk and The Dove, Neal Adams ‘Deadman,’ and Bat Lash) was a spy tale of six people under the thumb of a mysterious man called Mockingbird.  Each of the original Six owed their life/freedom/whatever to the Mockster, and their James-Bond-inspired missions were well drawn and well-written.  Naturally, then, it only lasted seven issues.  The team was killed in action, but a second Secret Six arose under Mockingbird’s control, only to get caught in the morass that was the history of the first.  I highly recommend them both.  During the Infinite Crisis, Alexander Luthor mobilized the various villains of the DCU into one overarching army of bastardry, ruthlessly killing those villains who didn’t join up.  Of course, there were some who were too stubborn, too vicious, too powerful, or too dumb to know better.  Thomas Blake, a.k.a The Catman.  Floyd Lawton, the semi-suicidal hitman called Deadshot.  The genocidal poison-freak Cheshire.  Vandal Savage’s daughter Scandal.  The second Rag Doll, son of the first, and crazy as a football bat.  A rogue Parademon of Apokalips.  Members come and go (mostly getting blown away) but the Six remain, and their mission is clear: stay the *@$%! away from the Society at all costs.

As this issue opens, we see a man named Shelton being taken by two shady looking characters in plaid suits (?) into a sleazy sex club in an unidentified red light district.  Shelton is uncomfortable, begging for help, but the identical twin thugs try to talk him into calming down.  One of them says that “the boss” isn’t all that frightening, and how he says nice things about Mr. Shelton all the time.  He turns to his brother for backup, but the other man states, “I’ll be honest…  When he talks I’m mainly trying to figure some way not to soil myself.  I’m doin’ the therapy work for it, but there it is.”  HA!  Shelton is led into a dark, bare room, with only a wooden crate on the floor.  A voice emanates from the box…  “Know who I am?”  Shelton nervously says that he does, and the voice asks why Shelton helped to steal from him.  Shelton babbles that he knows he shouldn’t steal from the boss (called “Junior”) and the hidden boss agrees, and then asks him a horrible question.  “You have wife, daughters.  They die, or you die.  They die or you die.”  Shelton screams to kill his family instead, and Junior drags him bodily into the crate, hissing “That is choice everyone makes.”  That… was creepy.

Somewhere else, an expensive car races through darkness, as Floyd Lawton and Thomas Blake go somewhere at ridiculous speed.  Blake xplains that something bad happened in Africa, and we see a flashback of the Catman in action.  “Lot of men died ugly, and were left to rot.  And worse.”  Lawton snorts, and almost laughs.  “I have it on good authority that guys die all the time.  You asking me to believe you care?”  Blake quietly answers, “No.  I’m saying I DON’T care.  I’m saying I’d do it again.”  As Catman contemplates retiring (or worse, superheroing) they stop by a tiny convenience store, engrossed in conversation, and completely miss the gang of thugs trying to rob the place.  Blak explains that life feels like something’s missing in his life, and Deadshot picks out ice cream.  A skinhead pops up, puts a gun to Lawton’s head and screams for them to put their hands up.  “You ain’t the contemplative type, Blake,” replies Deadshot.  Heh.  We are treated to a brief shot of Junior’s lackeys coming in to clean up their boss’s mess, and he replies that he has the information they need.  “Know who is transporting her.  Six individuals, not serious threat.”  Uh oh… 

Back at the grocery, Floyd and Thomas continue talking, and Deadshot suddenly realizes.  “It’s that girl!  That Huntress broad.”  The best part is watching the skinheads scream at them, as the two men calmly have their discussion about chicks and ennui with guns to their heads.  Lawton continues with his Huntress theory, explaining that “It’s the closest thing you can get to doin’ it with Batman.  Hold that thought.”  Deadshot whirls, grabs the gun, and breaks the thug’s nose with his elbow.  “You don’t respect ME, fine.  But you will $&@$ing well respect the GUN.”  Floyd shows the idiots how it’s done, explaining as HE robs the grocer, taking all the cash (“This goes with me, because you’re too DUMB to earn it.”) and an armload of smokes (“These go with me because of your… uh… shocking lack of security,” he says to the store owner.  HA!) and Deadshot and Catman prepare to leave.  Catman feels obligated to step in and save the day, though, and rips the thugs nearly to pieces with his claws.  “Yep.  Guess the Justice Legaue oughtta be callin’ any day now, General Glory,” replies Deadshot from the door.

Back at their lair, the House of Secrets, Scandal continues trying to drink herself to death, only to find that Ragdoll has arranged for a birthday party for her.  A stripper pops out of a cake dressed as her dead lover, and Scandal’s drunken mind hallucinates as she recieves a pretty awkward lapdance.  She imagines Knockout talking to her, and wonders how.  “Because you’re stupid drunk, silly…  Or, perhaps it’s because I am a New God and death alone cannot extinguish what burns within me.  Or perhaps I am a woman in love.”  Scandal finally starts to sober up, pushing the stripper away.  “She’s gonna kill us all,” says Deadshot.  “Not me,” replies Catman.  “I brought the ice cream.”  Ha!  Scandal smiles at her idiot partners, shakes off her stupor, and tells them that she has a mission.  The Six (really five now, with the addition of Batman villain Bane to their ranks) are to transport the Tarantula, but the mission is a bit funny.  Just as she points this out, Catman gets a call from the Huntress (she has his digits???) warning him to not take the gig.  She warns him that the Six are dead if they cross swords with Junior, and hangs up.  Speaking to the darkness, Huntress explains how much she hates doing what she just did.  “A bloodbath is coming, Huntress,” replies The Batman from the shadows.  “None of us are getting out of this with clean hands.  Least of all, Thomas Blake.”

This is a pretty awesome debut issue.  The Six’s previous appearances in Birds of Prey and elsewhere keep us from having to go through the usual setup of dramatis personae, instead going to some awesome character bits and SHOWING, not telling us how damaged each of these people are.  I’m terribly impressed with Nicola Scott’s art, making Scandal look drunk and gross while still maintaining her as an attractive woman (once she gets the vomit off her shirt) and making Deadshot and Catman in civvies look truly deadly.  Deadshot and Catman’s ice cream run is a classic moment, with trademark Gail Simone wit, and the interplay between Bane and Ragdoll gives me hope that the big doof will do more than bring bat-fans to the book.  This is the total package, folks, great art, great story, intriguing setup, a truly touching moment with Scandal and Knockout (or a hallucination thereof, anyway) and even the minor characters have life and voice of their own.  Secret Six #1 earns the much-coveted 5 out of 5 stars.  This is the book that you don’t even realize you’ve been waiting to see…

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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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7 Comments

  1. Ricco
    September 14, 2008 at 12:43 pm — Reply

    Deadshot about Catman beating the skinheads: “and when you broke all that guy’s teeth with your foot? I think I seen Captain Marvel do that once. For charity, as I recall.” HA!

    The dialogues were priceless! Not since Joss Whedon have I seen that witty dialogues.

  2. Carswell
    September 14, 2008 at 4:22 pm — Reply

    I agree, this was one of the most fun books to read that I have picked up in a long time.

  3. benty
    September 14, 2008 at 10:10 pm — Reply

    Would this be a good title to jump into the DC universe or is there a lot of back story to understand? Never been much of a DC person since I made the mistake of buying old 70’s Superman comics from the quarter bin years ago…..

  4. September 14, 2008 at 10:32 pm — Reply

    I found this one to be really good as well. I was skeptical before picking it up but remembered the Six from the Crisis book Villains United. The dialog is great and the story looks like it could go somewhere great. I’m looking forward to the next book in this series.

  5. Jackmurphy1969
    September 15, 2008 at 3:47 am — Reply

    I really liked it too. To clarify though, is the second Secret Six you mentioned in the review from the strip from Action Comics Weekly, or was there a second team in the original series?

  6. Sanlear
    September 15, 2008 at 6:58 am — Reply

    I’m so glad I bought this comic. It’s one of the most entertaining reads I’ve had in awhile. I hope it’s around for the long haul.

  7. DrStrangeCubicle
    September 15, 2008 at 11:34 am — Reply

    benty –

    You don’t really need a ton of backstory. If you picked up the Villains United miniseries from before Infinite Crisis, you’d basically get all you’d need to know IMO. The Huntress stuff, which may or may not turn out to be interesting/important, is from Birds of Prey (issues #104-108 or something like that). Even with that in mind, I think you could pretty easily jump onto this series and catch on quick enough.

    It’s definitely a good read and worth it (at least as of one issue ;p)

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