Or – “Blackest Do Whut Now?”
The fascinating thing about the Secret Six Blackest Night tie-in is how naturally the subject of death fits into the ongoing lives of these killers and thieves and reprobates. Deadshot’s ties to the Suicide Squad alone accounts for a couple of dozen ambulatory corpses, and that’s before we even consider the nigh-immortal Scandal an Jeannette’s body counts.Â The appearance of walking corpses here is disturbing, sure, but for some reason it seems to fit right into the characters lives…
Secret Six #18
Previously, on Secret Six:Â The members of the Secret Six were initially brought together when the leader of the Society (aka the Secret Society of Super-Villains) rejected them all.Â One of their own number turned against them, causing the group to go on the run through the lowest depths of the DC Universe.Â As their membership dwindled due to betrayal, bad planning, and the occasional execution of a teammate, the Secret Six found a base of operations, took on the services of Bruce Wayne back-breaker Bane, and finally nailed down a solid base of members.Â Slight complications came when the dead began rising across the universe atÂ that Amanda Waller (the head of Task Force X, and the brains behind the Suicide Squad) decides that she once again needs the services of Deadshot, the greatest living assassin.Â The field team has set out to confront the Suicide Squad at their own base of operations, while Amanda and her Squad have arrived at the House of Secrets to shut down Six operations and return their lost sheep to the fold.Â Both sides, however, are surprised as the dead start rising with super-powers and an axe to grind against both Squad and Six. Will anyone figure out what’s going on before everybody dies?
At Belle Reve prison, the dead members of the Suicide Squad are ready to eat both Bane’s field team and Count Vertigo’s Suicide Squad, and Deadshot finds himself targeted by The Fiddler, a former Sixer himself still seemingly a bit miffed that Deadshot shot him in the face. As the Six are forced to retreat, they find Catman and Bronze Tiger bleeding to death in the aftermath of their brutal battle last issue. Both the cat-fellows are out, but the teams still can’t quite trust one another. At the same time, Amanda Waller has torched the House of Secrets, causing Scandal Savage to have to return to action, slicing the heads off a pair of Multiplexes. “It seems we have a common enemy, Waller,” says the immortal. “I say we negotiate.” As Squad and Six are overrun by zombies, the teams are forced to fight side by side, and Black Alice steals the teleportation powers of Nightshade, allowing her team to escape. Unfortunately, she finds that the powers of the Black Lanterns are holding open the portal, allowing the Suicide Squad and the various dead villains through after them. “So, there’s a whole mess of ugly,” says Amanda Waller hystericaly. I love the dialogue throughout this issue, by the way, from Rag Doll’s perversity to Black Alice’s whiny to the sudden and wonderful badassery of Scandal.
We have a moment that reminds me a lot of the cover to X-Men #100, with villains alive on one side and villains dead on the other, and a fight suddenly breaks out. Waller realizes that she has the answer to the whole problem back at Belle Reve, and beats the hell out of Black Alice (a sixteen year old girl, mind you) to force her to give up Nightshade’s powers. Teleporting home, Amanda and Nightshade gather up the Thinker’s old helmet, and a Manhunter android abandoned in the swamps years ago in the wake of the Millenium crossover. Combining flash grenades and the Manhunters’ internal green power battery, Amanda takes down the Black Lanterns with several pages to go… I realize what’s about to happen as Amanda steps forward to talk sense to Scandal. Faced with the prospect of a fight, Scandal realizes that her team will probably lose, but refuses to stand down. When Amanda replies that she didn’t think Scandal was leading the team anymore, Scandal replies, “I do let [Bane] think that.” Waller threatens to blow off Deadshot and Bane’s heads off (as former Suicide Squad members, they still have cranial bombs) but both of them choose dying horribly over working for her. She tries to talk to Deadshot, but he isn’t listening… AND SHOOTS HER RIGHT IN THE CHEST. “Waller comes at me again, I shoot her in the head. I see any of you approaching any of us, I shoot you in the head. No further warning. Just DEAD.” The stunned Suicide Squad members take their leader to get medical attention as the Secret Six watches their home burn to the ground.
This whole issue is wonderful, as John Ostrander’s hand changes the tone of the book without undermining any of the razor-sharp characterizations set up by Gail Simone… Deadshot’s gun-happy moment is a full-on “Hell, YEAH!” moment, especially for anyone who has read much of Amanda Waller in the past. The darkness of the issue fits with the crossover better than I thought these characters would, and the revelation that Amanda is herself the mysterious Mockingbird pulling the Secret Six’s strings comes as a huge shock to even her own second in command. Jim Calafiore is handling the art here (I believe Nicola Scott was busy drawing Blackest Night: Wonder Woman) and his unique art style works quite well, making Scandal and Deadshot especially look awesome. I don’t know if he’s staying with the book or not, but if he does, I won’t be too disappointed. My only real complaint about the issue was that I had to go back and research the history of the Six and the old Suicide Squad to remember who all the characters were… Great fun for me, mind you, but possibly off-putting for the theoretical new reader. Either way, this issue works as the last twenty minutes of a hardcore action film, right down to the funny quip after each explosion. I’m a fan of this book from day one, but this one, to quote the great Jim Ross, is a slobberknocker filled with characters tougher than a 2 dollar steak. Secret Six #18 does the job, earning an impressive 4 out of 5 stars overall.