This series just kept getting better and better. Written by Gail Simone, this was a great character study book. Filled with the D-Lister’s D list, there was never an issue that I didn’t find some aspect of Ms Simone’s writing an absolute thrill. Comics has, particularly in the last two decades, gone out of its way to take popular villains and anti-heroes, and turn them into leading character material. Wolverine made the dark hero popular and profitable, Venom made the leap to dark anti-hero, Deadpool and countless others, all have been lost along the way. Some because the core of the concept was lost in the quest for sales and others because, to make the character palatable for the mass consumption market, they stripped away the few interesting things about them, reducing them to darker versions of the true icon that was originally popular.
Not so with Secret Six. There was not one really popular character in this book. Bane? Catman? Was ANYONE really clamoring for more stories about Catman? Everyone on this “Team” was a mess in every way possible and on many layers. Some were characters that were never fully realized or created in a time when depth was not something that was an issue. The most promising of this bunch was Scandal Savage, daughter of Vandal, and she was created more or less, specifically for this book. Simone created her and imbued her with everything that makes for a good lead, but she didn’t hold the lead for long. She was quickly supplanted by more internally powerful, or at least more externally forceful individuals. Bane, Catman, Deadshot, all had moments taking the lead role on this team, and the title was always well served by this.
The most surprising and fun member of the team was Ragdoll, a crappy leftover from the Golden Age. Originally created by Gardener Fox, reborn marginally more interesting in the 80’s, Simone has made him (in the form of the original’s son) the soul of the book. Between obvious lines mean for comic relief, he speaks as though he were the conscience of the team, all the while fantasizing out loud about some pretty unspeakable things.
There have been complex relationships all through this book’s all too short 36 issue run (not counting a few guest shots and the Villains United series they started in) that have given this book a feel that was alway far more believable than virtually any book in the DCU. The complex relationship between Bane and Scandal took much of the time, but others have had their time in the light as well. In the end, everyone was well served in this book by a skilled writer at the top of her game.
DC did not serve this book well. With the reboot, all this was essentially wiped away. The series ended satisfactorily enough, but as with all the OLD DCU, it felt a bit rushed. I imagine Ms Simone was given notice to wrap things up well enough, but I think there could have been many more great issues of this series. That combined with J. Calafiore’s very nice, expressive art, make this a missed gem.
The other way DC has failed this series is the fact that the early volumes are out of print. Villains United and volumes 3 and up are still easily available, and one and two CAN still be found, but the prices are rising slowly. I know that it does not benefit DC to keep everything in print, but this series is not some crappy book that limped along for a dozen issues and was killed after just enough issue to collect in a trade. This was actually a fairly well received book. Popular with critics and fans, and should be seen by everyone that enjoys watching a writer with real skill craft a fine book.
I highly recommend this to anyone that wants something a little off-center from the standard super hero fare and far better than all the “reformed” bad guys books. Jump on these while you can still find them for a reasonable price. Go. Now.