Monday, April 4, 2016
Secret Six #12 Review and **SPOILERS**
Never Gonna Give Strix Up
Art By: Dale Eaglesham and Tom Derenick, Jason Wright
Letters By: Travis Lanham
Cover Price: $2.99
Release Date: March 30, 2016
**Non-Spoilers and Score At The Bottom**
Okay, so we have the Suicide Squad movie coming out this Summer, and it’s going to be a hit. Forget the crap you’re reading online about reshoots and the studio’s cold feet or whatever, the team’s formula of murderous, trash-talking anti-heroes will resonate so strongly with pubescent boys and Harley Quinn will resonate so strongly with pubescent girls that I predict a run on tattoo parlors nationwide, a rush to have logos and ephemera from the film crudely stained onto teenage skin—mark my words! So clearly Greg Berlanti can’t use the Suicide Squad (and indeed, more or less dispensed with the TV incarnation earlier in this season of Arrow), how about the Secret Six? Come on, Zack Snyder is never going to use Catman, or Scandal Savage, or Ragdoll, and Legends of Tomorrow has proven a willingness to use a superhero team…though I wouldn’t say it’s been to great effect thus far. Nevertheless, I am beginning my campaign to Beg Greg Berlanti to Make a Secret Six TV Show with this rambling introduction to my review of Secret Six #12! If you want to see the Secret Six on television, be sure to contact this website’s e-mail address and add yourself to the swelling ranks of this movement! After you read my review, that is!
I have this special dance I do when I see that Dale Eaglesham and Tom Derenick are working on an issue together, it’s sort of a freakish, unsettling soft shoe not unlike the little person dancing during dream sequences on Twin Peaks. At least, I think those were dream sequences. Anyway, with these two titans tag-teaming the issue, you can plunk down your three bucks at the local comic shop’s counter secure in the knowledge that it’s going to look great. But wait, there’s more! Esteemed author and basically Best Secret Six Writing Expert Gail Simone is at the pen! The writing pen, I mean. I know the inking involves a pen, even if in some digital form, but in Gail Simone’s case it would be the writing kind. It may indeed be the same type of pen, my point is that the artist would use it for inking, and Gail would use it for writing. Maybe you should picture her writing with a plume, if that helps illustrate my meaning. What I’m really getting at is I don’t understand why this comic book doesn’t sell a million, billion copies per month. Editorial mishandling aside, it looks better than ninety percent of the stuff on the shelves and it’s funnier than any book not written by Chip Zdarsky in 2016. It’s also brutal and weird and gross and touching. By rights, this comic should be doing Harry Potter numbers, and it’s a damn shame it looks like we’re bearing down on the series’ conclusion. Sigh.
So this issue starts with an interesting little snippet—but you know what, I’m not even going to reveal it, because it’s not immediately germane to the rest of the issue and is clearly teasing a delectable story line I hope we see later. You want to find out what that page-long scene implies, go read the issue! (Or at least read the first page at your LCS.) So we really open back at the park, where Catman and Batgirl have just made friends aka tried to kill each other while Catman was out walking the dog and the goat-fly. Or fly-goat. Goatse? Catman can’t get in touch with anyone from the team, which, says Batgirl, says that “she” is here. We know it’s Lady Shiva based on last issue, so I’m not sure why Babs is being coy about it. Cut to the Lady herself, standing over the cold-cocked forms of Big Shot and Ferdie (Alice and Shauna are presumably off-panel, since we saw them snuffed last issue, too.) Some cops try to arrest her, but she ninjas them into submission which is perfectly legal: if you ninja a cop while they are trying to arrest you, then that police officer has to let you go. Shiva meets up with Catman and Batgirl at their suburban home, just as Catman is telling Porcelain to get out of the house because his parents are coming home earlier than they said they would.
Porcelain tries to get Strix to split out the back door, but Strix isn’t having any of this cut-and-run business. So Porcelain and Strix step outside to help Catman and Batgirl fight Shiva, Porcelain in her cool sparkly derby and wielding a sledgehammer, Strix in—get this—a t-shirt and jeans with her Talon mask and fucking Talon gauntlets pulled up her arms like a couple of dishwashing gloves! Can this be Strix’s new uniform, like for good and all? Like if you’re gonna trot her out for Seriously Ultimate Crisis next year, just have her wear this outfit? With, of course, Batgirl’s yellow boots, which Strix says she likes via pad communication. But I’m getting ahead of myself here. Catman challenges Shiva who instantly—and I mean instantly—puts him down and has a staff aimed at his neck. Shiva then explains that she’s there to recruit Strix into the League of Assassins, which has a much better health plan than the Court of Owls. Because of that and because Shiva threatens to kill her friends if she doesn’t join, Strix agrees. Batgirl protests, but eventually relents and gives Strix her yellow boots. It really is a touching scene that is a lot more sweet than this text description can convey. Catman also reflects on how they’ve been used to manipulate Strix, and says—oh god, guys—Catman says, “I never actually believed I was a bad guy before. Until just this minute.” For crap’s sake guys! I think I have some dust in my eye!
In an SUV limousine on its way, presumably, to Nanda Parbat, Shiva is like Strix’s new adoptive mom telling her of what fun she isn’t going to have in the League of Assassins, and Strix hugs her new boots fearfully just like a newly-adopted daughter might, and you just want to reach into the comic and through it and pat the creative team on the back. Strix puts the boots on, and after beating the snot out of a bunch of attending League members at the airport for no particular reason, boards a helicopter with Shiva and flies off into the night. Back at the suburban HQ, the team is reunited and resolves to go get Strix back from the League of Assassins—even Ferdie wants to get her, and he’s a complete asshole puppet! Or is that puppet asshole? No, that’s where your hand goes. While they’re preparing to do something very, very stupid, Porcelain explains to Big Shot that a certain someone we’ve not seen for six or seven issues is upstairs, so he takes a look and it’s his wife, Sue Dibny! See, we learned that Big Shot was really Ralph Dibny around issue #5, and he took the form of a big galoot because he thought she died. I think that was it? Or was it just that she left him in this continuity? In any case, the Riddler took over her mind, then they saved her, but she was confused…point is, she’s back, and with her support, that means a much-beloved character has returned to the DCU: Detective Ralph Dibny, the Elongated Man!
It’s just such fun to read this comic book, I can’t help but feel like people are missing out. Is it that the characters are kind of weird? Or maybe that it won’t tie into Justice League or whatever? The art and plotting are superb, the coloring could be a little brighter but that would be a middling point. The writing, the character building, it’s just as good as it gets in comic books. I remember being very dubious of this team in the first issues, because much of them were new and I am suspicious and hateful of new things. But now, by issue twelve, I know each of the members of the team very well—each has their distinct personality and motivations and each plays their own important role. This series has taken somewhat lame characters, like the New 52 Ventriloquist, expanded their power sets and clarified them in ways I’d never expected. I’d never have thought that Strix would become one of my favorite, most sympathetic characters in comic books. I couldn’t have foreseen that I’d be wondering about a solo Ferdie miniseries where he massacres through the DCU looking for a new puppet master. This comic, even when arcs are interrupted and issues unceremoniously dropped during execution, is a pleasure to read.
Bits and Pieces:
The problem with this book is that is has amazing artwork and amazing characters and a compelling story that is well-written and nicely paced while being eminently readable. What's that you say? You don't consider these "problems?" Then why aren't you reading Secret Six? And if you are reading Secret Six, why aren't you buying two and three copies every month? Why aren't you buying issues by the baleful and slipping them inconspicuously into pediatric office waiting rooms and onto church bulletin boards? I'm really going to miss this team, both the creative and the fictional one, but before they take their bows it looks like they're pulling out all the stops. Hop on while you can!