Review: Secret Six #14


Or – “In Which The Six Have Split, And Wonder Woman Is On The Menu…”


My old friend Bruce used to have a saying…  “It’s always darkest, before it gets pitch-black.”  A founding member of the Justice League is about to be consumed by a demon, the Secret Six are at one another’s throats, and the Bana-Mighdall Amazons are free (and mightily irritable.)  Think things can’t get worse?  Possibly you’re not remembering some of the Secret Six’s previous missions…

Secret Six #14

SS2.jpgWritten by Gail Simone
Pencils by Nicola Scott and Carlos Rodriguez
Inks by Doug Hazlewood and Mark McKenna

Previously, on Secret Six:  The members of the Six have been through a literal and metaphorical hell, taking on an ill-advised mission for a scuzzball named Smyth, who is working to build the world’s largest prison, a prison with a theme of “Dante’s Inferno.”  His workers are all slave labor, something of which he is quite proud, and among this army are numbered many of the Bana-Mighdall, the eponymous warrior women of “Amazons Attack,” who have apparently been extradited by the United States government as war criminals.  Jeannette the banshee went against the wishes of her partners and freed Artemis (the red-haired Wonder Woman of the 90’s) from her shackles, causing a rift through the team.  Rag Doll, Catman and Deadshot sided with Smyth, while Bane, Scandal and Jeannette rebelled (each for his or her own reasons) against the slavers.  Wonder Woman was in there someplace as well, and there’s a literal demon in the basement who wants to eat her.  I bet that wasn’t in her horoscope…  (“Taurus – You will be chained up and consumed by something that claims to be the devil.  Lucky numbers are 5/9/14/22.”)

We open with a very disturbing Wonder Woman sequence, as she lays bound and drugged on a slab, while Grendel muses about whether or not food worries while being eaten.  Grendel seems intent on scaring her before consumption, but gets interrupted before he can finish up.  (This is a nicely handled sequence, eerie and horrifying, without being skeevy or overtly sexual.  The menace is all in his words and the closeup shots of his claws on her skin.)  Smyth calls down, askin for a boon fromt he creature:  kill the Secret Six for him.  Jeannette and Catman manage to free the imprisoned Amazons (the better to serve as cannon fodder) and get to the bottom of why she hates the Amazons so much.  In the bowels of the prison, Bane seeks out Scandal Savage, who has just slaughtered most all of the security forces that Smyth has hired.  She looks up, in tears, and murmurs, “You came back for me…”  Bane replies with a fatherly, “I will always come back for you.”  She again brings up the subject of the Venom (the mysterious drug that gives him his powers) and Bane misunderstands that she wants him to shoot up again.  “We need the Bane who beat the BAT,” she says again.  “Not the one who is distracted by…  distracted by love.”  Before he can stop her, Scandal TAKES THE VENOM HERSELF!  As violence breaks out across the island, Catman and Jeannette are confronted by Smyth’s bodyguard, the woman in the linen skirt with the corvo knives, who addresses them and reveals that she, herself, was an Amazon warrior.  She was assigned to handle the purple ray, and now finds it’s healing energies to be internalized, making her nearly impossible to kill.  As they engage her in combat, Deadshot and Ragdoll arrive, but to quote the immortal Bobby The Brain Heenan, “WHOSE SIDE ARE THEY ON?” 

We won’t find out right now, as Bane and the doped up Scandal find and engage Grendel (Scandal immediately tries to shove her blades in it’s EYES) and Smyth decides to gas them all to death.  Before he can pull the trigger, though, Rag Doll arrives and caves his head in with a wrench in a breath-taking display of violence.  We forget that even the comic relief member of this team is seriously deadly.  The Amazon with the blades defeats Catman and Jeannette (an injury to her neck causes the banshee to revert to a child-like state) before Deadshot blows her head off.  “I never wanted to get paid anyway.”  Catman quickly takes action, remarking that he’d like to see the woman regenerate after bein cleaned and dressed and disposed of properly, while Scandal Savage slices up Grendel.  An odd word from Bane allows the creature to realize that she is spawn of Vandal Savage, and the creature reveals the truth:  VANDAL SAVAGE IS IT’S FATHER AS WELL.  Overpowering Bane, the creature prepares to eat it’s half-sibling when Wonder Woman arrives and snaps it’s neck without hesitation.  “I have a rule against killing, where possible.  Demons are an exception.”  Wonder Woman recovers Artemis, frees the Amazons, and the Secret Six are allowed to leave in a helicopter.  Bane finally displays some of his master tactician abilities, and and takes command of the Six.  “Every mission you undertake ends in injuries and non-payment,” he tells Scandal.  “My first command is…  YOU are off the team, Scandal Savage.”   We end with Deadshot engaging in a little cosmic justice, leaving Smyth dead in the barbed wire of his own prison…

This issue is the darkest and most disturbing comic in a while, featuring bad decisions all around, as well as some deep character work on the likes of Bane, Jeannette and Scandal, and Gail reveling in how far the characters can sink.  It’s a thoroughly unpleasant story with thoroughly unpleasant people, but it still manages to keep me riveted to the events.  Bane’s removal of Scandal from active duty is a shocking moment, she being a core member of this team from it’s inception, but the fact that her teammates seemingly supported this decision leaves Scandal gobsmacked.  None of these characters will ever be mistaken for superheroes, surely, but it’s a little shocking to see them all in brutal action.  Nicola Scott’s art is always wonderful, but here she manages to create a tone of dread and foreboding, a darkness that I don’t recall seeing in her work before, but one that I enjoy.  This is a very good climax for an interesting and thought-provoking arc, and a very successful issues overall.  Secret Six #14 earns another wonderful 4 out of 5 stars overall, and the seeming uncertainty of more ‘Agents of Atlas’ (an equally unusual and wonderful title from the other guys) makes me want to urge you all to pick up THIS unique and unusual look into odd corners of the DC Universe…