Or – “Within The Hidden Lands At The Center Of The Earth…”
The Six have split in two, and are now technically a Secret Twelve, with Bane and Jeannette on one side, and Catman, Rag Doll, Bane and Scandal on the other. Each group is backed by a different government jerk (Spy Smasher and Amanda Waller, respectively) and all are trapped in the hidden world of Skartaris, stomping grounds of the Warlord. What will it take to bring our heroes (and I use the term loosely) together again?
Previously, on Secret Six: A split over the well-being of Catman left the Secret Six in shambles, forcing Bane and Jeannette (both of whom valued the team’s reputation in the mercenary circles above the life of one man) to recruit new members for their latest mission. Bringing in Giganta (who dated the fourth Atom), Dwarfstar (who killed the fourth Atom), Lady Vic (who is a recurring jerk whom I know pretty much nothing about, and whose relationship to the fourth Atom is unknown), and King Shark (who would probably have been happy to eat the fourth Atom, alive or dead), they have entered the hidden world of Skartaris on behalf of the government of the United States. Thanks to the mysterious Mockingbird, Scandal’s Secret Six has moved to counter their former partners, while Spy Smasher and Mockingbird maneuver behind the scenes to turn Skartaris into a political pawn. The battle of former pals led to horifying consequences, though, as Bane threw himself on Scandal’s wristblades to save his adoptive daughter’s life…
The Mockingbird’s agent in the field, Tremor (aka Rani Chatterji) opens the issue with her assessment of the battlefield: Catman is insane, Giganta is a bully, Dwarfstar a murderer, and Scandal is inherently compromised with blood on her hands. Literally, in this case, as Bane is bleeding out in her arms, causing Scandal to throw herself on Jeannette’s mercy. “If we were EVER friends, if you ever loved me, please… Get help.” Jeannette shows some serious intimidation skills by shutting down all the combatants with nothing more than her dulcet tones and the power of a banshee, and being damn impressive in the doing. Gail Simone manages to keep the characters at one another’s throats while simultaneously caring deeply for each other, a difficult prospect indeed, but one that her superior writing skills are more than up to. Scandal and her team are forced to split (the sight of the Secret Six surrounded by armored dinosaur warriors would have made Rodrigo smile) as a Skartarian healer works his (literal) magic on Bane.
It takes a special kind of artist to make me not miss Nicola Scott, but Calafiore brings serious skills to the table, rendering jungle battles and battles of will at the Pentagon equally well. Spy Smasher’s machinations have led her to drag a minor bureaucrat named Caleb into her web, sneaking through the halls of governance to frame Mockingbird with a fake threat of a nuclear attack on American soil. Caleb can’t believe what she’s hearing, but Spy Smasher simply smiles it off, offering her an illegal Cuban cigar as they set to work. Bane and his squadron attack the King of Skartaris (Machiste from the old Warlord series) and a battle ensues, but the Skartarians unveil their secret weapon, a symbol of heroes past: THE WARLORD! Or, at least, Catman wearing his legendary armor and loincloth. “Anyone so much as giggles, they get my sword right up their–” Before that threat is complete, another comes to fruition as Mockingbird meet Spy Smasher in the field of spycraft. And since Mockingbird is none other than Amanda Waller, it’s a truly shocking moment when she shoots Agent Caleb in the head and tells Spy Smasher that her attempt to frame Waller is about to become public. “And I’m afraid this is YOUR gun, Katrina,” Amanda tells her opponent before leaving her. “Don’t EVER $&$@ with the Wall.” Oh, HELL yeah… As things get worse in Skartaris, Machiste makes a bad decision guaranteed to make things worse as we fade to black.
I have to say, I love seeing Spy Smasher get her ass handed to her, and this was nearly as much fun as the time a woman in a wheelchair kicked her ass before Black Canary caused her to wet herself. The intrigue in Skartaris (apparently Spy Smasher wants to annex it for nefarious purposes) is strangely entertaining, but it’s merely a backdrop for the damaged personalities of the Secret Six. King Shark actually gets a star turn in this issue, losing an eye and joking that he can’t watch Avatar now, while Deadshot and Jeannette’s interrupted romance gets a little development as well. The fun in reading this book isn’t usually the big plots (though those are awesome as well) but in the ways the characters work so hard to try and avoid changing or admitting their true natures as they do so. Gail Simone’s twisted team is always entertaining, and this issue is no exception. Secret Six #27 earns a well-deserved 4.5 out of 5 stars overall, even with the horrifying sight of Rag Doll in his Superman underoos.
Faithful Spoilerite Question Of The Day: When the heck did the Warlord die?