Wednesday, February 17, 2016
Secret Six #11 Review and *SPOILERS*
Written By: Gail Simone
Art By: Dale Eaglesham and Tom Derenick, Jason Wright
Letters By: Travis Lanham
Cover Price: $2.99
Release Date: February 17, 2016
*Non-Spoilers and Score At The Bottom*
She’s got poise and grace, and a badly-scarred face, it’s Strix! She was treated real bad and now she speaks through a pad, it’s Strix! She’s a cold-blooded killer in leather, and she really likes ice cream—even in chilly weather. She’s down with the Secret Six, it’s Strix! We’ve come to love the character in the pages of Secret Six, but because the group’s members take people at face value and don’t pry, we don’t know a whole lot about her past. All that’s about to change with this issue, that kicks off a new story arc for the team! I can’t wait to learn more about our favorite Talon, can you? You can? Well why don’t you read my review while you’re waiting!
By my count, this begins the third story arc in this volume of Secret Six. The first one was plagued with early onset delays and then got demolished by Convergence happening right in the middle of things. The second one seemed to lose an issue after it had already begun, and now this one is likely to be the last arc of Secret Six after DC’s Rebirth—whatever it is (we find out tomorrow!)—kicks off in June. It looks like this one is dedicated to one of the cutest emotionally and physically scarred assassins this side of Jonah Hex: Strix! Indeed, it all begins in the backyard of the Secret Six’s suburban lair, where Porcelain is about to spar with Strix, who is actually wearing a pair of overalls if you can believe it. This strikes me as both adorable and fittingly out of fashion for an eighty-plus year-old cryogenically frozen abuse survivor. Strix whips the tar out of Porcelain, which is about what everyone expected. Still, Strix offers some encouragement by writing “YOU FIGHT VERRY GOOD” on a pad.
At that very moment, Thomas “Catman” Blake is strolling through a local park, walking the team’s dog and gross sheep/fly hybrid thing, which I honestly forgot about. He notices Batgirl following him, and calls her out. This is it, folks! Gail Simone writing Batgirl of Burnside! What subtextual clues can we divine that will evince the anger and rage she feels over having been replaced on Batgirl by a bunch of young upstarts? How deeply can we read into every letter of every word spoken by Batgirl to prove our hypothesis that Gail Simone has a real axe to grind with DC editorial??? My guess: very. But at face value, she’s just being the same old Batgirl, and because two trained fighters are meeting for the first time in a comic book, they must fight. The two of them scrap and taunt for a while, and eventually Blake gives Batgirl her props. This instigates the code of the streets, I guess, because after that Batgirl is all cool and says she was only testing Catman to make sure he wasn’t wearing any butt padding? I guess? But now she explains that she’s really there because someone’s after her old buddy Strix, who she knows from back in her black n’ yellow days. There’s no time to explain! We have to hurry back to Secret Six HQ!
At said HQ, Porcelain and Strix are playing makeover. Porcelain takes Strix’s bandages off to see her scarred face, and goes to get a metric ton of foundation to cover it up. This is being spied upon creepily by the rest of the crew, who are lurking outside the door to Porcelain’s bedroom for some reason. Big Shot gets a call from Catman who says he’s coming home with Batgirl, and she and the Ventriloquist totes don’t get along, so he’d better make her scarce. While they run to the Six House (my name), Batgirl tells Catman about Strix’s origin: horrifically scarred by an explosive device deployed randomly by the Japanese during World War II, she finds she can only get work with the traveling circus, which we know is also the recruitment center for the Court of Owls’ Talon-in-training program. She suffered the requisite mental and physical abuse, got Talonized and put on ice, and now she is mentally a child and also not a very good speller. Big Shot gets another call and thinks it’s Blake again, but it turns out to be Sue Dibny—I wondered if this weird tidbit from early in the run would be coming back. For those just tuning in, Big Shot is actually Ralph Dibny, the Elongated Man, who has assumed the shape of Big Shot because he’s super-depressed that his wife is a mind-controlled agent of Mockingbird. Who was actually the Riddler. Actually, he was originally assuming the guise of Big Shot because he thought his wife Sue was dead. How being Big Shot really figures into all this, I have no idea, but this phone call allows Eaglesham to draw Big Shot with a really stretched out face, which looks terrific.
After applying roughly four inches of makeup to Strix, she looks reasonably normal. Porcelain leaves the room to get some clothing, and Ventriloquist and Ferdie enter to sing a duet of “Just the Way You Are.” Strix then wipes off all of her makeup and when Porcelain comes back has written “I AM STRIX NOT MAKUP” on a pad, so they hug affectionately. I would have been like fine, bitch—but you asked about my lipstick so don’t catch attitude with me! Outside the room, a cheerful Big Shot collects Black Alice and the Ventroloquist to take them out for ice cream, in order to get them out of the house as well as celebrate having spoken to his wife. They are beset by a shadowy figure that dispenses with everyone—even Ferdie—in an awesome page that should be framed and hung in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and the attacker turns out to be Lady Shiva, who wants to recruit Strix for the League of Assassins!
The whole creative team is on the book at the beginning of an arc, and everything works. This is actually one of the less weird issues of Secret Six, which is odd to say considering it contains an undead assassin’s makeover and a flying sheep with a fly’s head. I can’t help but feel cautious about this arc, and wonder if it’s going to be truncated or otherwise screwed out of its full potential by editorial oversight, but only time will tell. If it keeps going at this pace and level of quality, then I’ll ride this sucker into the heart of the blazing sun! Yee haw!
Bits and Pieces:
Arc number three for this volume of Secret Six begins with this issue, and it’s a solid story. Batgirl shows up for no huge reason and never really matches that awesome scene on the cover of the issue. If you don’t want to know more about the enigmatic and adorable Strix, then this issue is not for you. But if you want to see Dale Eaglesham and Tom Derenick put a clinic on comic book storytelling and make it look easy as pie, then there’s loads of that in this comic. It’s a tough one, I can tell you’re torn. Might as well buy the comic and act put out about it than regret having missed something later.