Another month, another new DC title. This week we take a look at Gail Simone and her new series, Secret Six which seems to frontline Catman and five other characters, almost all of them making their New 52 debut in this first issue.
This series combines the writing skills of Simone, who most recently ended her run on Batgirl this summer, with the artwork of Ken Lashley, a very talented artist despite only having a few notable Superman: Doomed issues to his name. (If you read that series then you should be able to recall his image of Superman tearing Doomsday in half, pretty sweet stuff.) So who are these six, what is their secret, and as always, is it good?
Secret Six #1 (DC Comics)
We begin the issue with Catman being arrested by a Special Forces group which turns into a bar-clearing brawl, giving us a brief look at Lashley’s artistic skills (More on that later). Catman awakes to find himself in a coffin-shaped chamber with five other members, none of them truly knowing where they are or why they’re there. Each of these characters has a special ability of some sort, so let’s start by breaking down each of the characters.
Thomas Blake a.k.a. Catman: The character originally debuted as a Batman villain in the ’60s, but has now been viewed as more of an anti-hero. Catman is now a well-known member of the Secret Six team with help from Simone back when she wrote the series in the mid to late 2000s. Simone has said that this run with highlight Catman once more and also feature the fact he’s bisexual. (Just DC trying to be more inclusive).
Kani a.k.a. Porcelain: A new character to who has the ability to disintegrate matter, “The harder the material, the better.”
Shauna Belzer a.k.a. The Ventriloquist: A character of Simone’s creation that first premiered in Batgirl #20, Belzer is a psychotic murderer who has demonstrated powers of telekinesis. Her dummy’s name is Ferdie, named after Shauna’s twin brother that she killed.
Damon Wells a.k.a. Big Shot: Another new character and the only other male on the team. Wells claims to be an average personal investigator with the ability to swell, similar to the Hulk, but a lot less green and muscular.
Mary a.k.a. Strix: The second Simone creation on the squad, Strix is a female Court of Owls assassin who debuted in Batman #9, but her storyline was later heavily featured in Batgirl and Birds of Prey. The mute assassin is one of the few members of the court that were not placed back into cryo-freeze after the Court of Owls crossover event.
Alice a.k.a. Black Alice: The last and third Simone-created character got her start in Birds of Prey prior to the New 52. Black Alice has already been a member of the Secret Six alongside Catman during Simone’s previous run and has a slew of magical abilities, making her probably the most powerful member of the team.
So now that the bios are over, how’s the actual issue? The concept of the storyline seems a little Maze Runner/Hunger Games-y to me. These characters are plucked out of their lives and thrown into a room of strangers, meanwhile being observed in a quasi-futuristic room which plays games with them by shocking the floors and assigning them tasks. It feels like it fits in with all these young adult other-realm book to movie adaptations (Divergent, that’s another one of those damn movies). The plot itself isn’t what really irks me though, it’s the actual writing. I love Gail Simone’s work, in fact I’ve already raved about her work on this site when I reviewed Leaving Megalopolis. However, the language in this issue seems stilted and the character interactions seem almost awkwardly straight forward and cold. It’s like watching bad acting. The transitions in dialogue are somewhat bizarre and I’m already sick of the cat-related quips.
As for the art, I love Lashley’s style. You can tell he puts a lot of time into his penciling with the amount of detail devoted to the background, e.g. the opening bar scene. The colors and shadowing is really well done I’m glad they gave him the reins on a series. There are some pages late in the issue that are questionable and I’m not sure if they were done by fill-in artists or Lashley didn’t have much time to dedicate to it. I really hope that isn’t a trend, but Lashley at his best is well worth it.
Is It Good?
I’m going to give this issue the benefit of the doubt when it comes to the writing because it had to pack a lot of information into one issue. The plotline shows potential if it can stray away from clichés and really try to distinguish itself and not just be “another random team of kinda bad people like Suicide Squad.” I’m game for the next issue because the combination of these characters and Lashley’s art make a great foundation for a series.