Secret Six #1
Writer – Gail Simone
Penciller (sic) – Ken Lashley
Inkers – Ken Lashley and Drew Geraci
Colorist – Jason Wright
Review by Joey Braccino
WHAT IS THE SECRET?
We open on one of those trucker-dive bars out in the middle of some out-in-the-middle-of-nowhere towns. “ATF Agent” Robbins and his crew crash the place looking for a Thomas Blake. They find him somewhere amid the lounge singing and booze and smoke and ask “nicely” for Blake to come along. Blake reads the signs, knows this Robbins is a fake, and resists confinement. The Catman comes out as Blake tears the bar and the “agents” apart in an action-packed, glass-shattering sequence of fisticuffs and gunfire… But maybe that lounge-singing darling on stage isn’t all she appears to be…
And that’s the first half of Gail Simone’s triumphant return to Secret Six. Simone, a DC architect and long-time writer of moral-ambiguity in series like Suicide Squad and earlier volumes of Secret Six, is in true form here as the first sequence in the appropriately, ominously named “Redemption Flats, New Mexico” mixes high-octane action with nuanced characterization and mystery. Catman, the fan-favorite lead character of Simone’s previous runs on the book, is our protagonist for this first issue of the New 52 Secret Six, and we follow him through this mind-bending, suspenseful debut.
After the brawl, Catman finds himself trapped in an underground (?) bunker with five other strange superhumans. Some will be familiar to fans of Simone’s previous Secret Six run (Black Alice in particular returns in fine form), but most will be surprised and excited by the enigmatic new players in the “Secret Six” roster, particular the unsettling Ventriloquist and the delightful Damon “Big Shot” Wells, a hard-boiled P.I. type with broad shoulders and a dialect straight out of the 1950s. Filling out the roster are the murderous Strix and the superpowerful Porcelain. The six are trapped in this bunker and are forced to answer a “simple” question on punishment of death: “What is the secret?” Tensions mount as Catman struggles with the confinement and the question, and the disembodied voice declares that if the question is not answered, the six must choose one among them for “termination.”
As I mentioned before, Simone has tension down. The first issue builds and builds to its climactic cliffhanger, which is at once terrifying and cathartic. Mystery, suspense, action, and intense psychology all come together in Simone’s script, making for an energetic, driving reading experience.
Ken Lashley pencils are your standard DC aesthetic: heavily inked, accentuated figurework with a flair for the melodramatic. Big Shot’s robust, broad barrel design stands out as the rare exception in what is otherwise a fairly standard Jim-Lee-esque visual experience. Jason Wright’s colors are spectacularly moody, playing off of those DC shadows with ambers, reds, and aquablues rather than anything particularly stark. There is one awkward shift about halfway through the book between inkers; Ken Lashley’s scratchy inks are much more evocative and appropriate than Drew Geraci’s solid lines. But alas, the overall feel is fairly standard for a DC book, which is neither good nor bad depending on which side of the divide you fall. Generally, you get a well-choreographed, kinetic reading experience in Secret Six #1, that perfectly serves Simone’s wonderful script.
Buy. Gail Simone is back in true form with Secret Six #1, bringing the suspense and the thrills with a hearty helping of both action and melodrama. The cast is extremely promising and the overall strangeness is more terrifying than humorous. I do wish it had a more distinctive visual aesthetic, but fans of the DC house style will recognize the merits of Ken Lashley’s work here. Catman! Check it!