After successful Villains United and Secret Six mini-series Gail Simone’s villain team get an ongoing. Regulars Scandal, Ragdoll, Catman and Deadshot are back, joined by Bane and with a new member due soon.
The issue opens in a gay club where nicely dressed brotherly thugs escort an associate into a room where lurks the mysterious Junior. And that’s not overstating things – we don’t get a look at him because Junior seems to spend all his time in a box. Which isn’t to say he’s not scary . . .
(So he’s referred to as Junior, he has a way with evisceration and it’s likely his dad has box associations too. Jack in the Box? Jack the Ripper in a box? Nah.)
Elsewhere, Deadshot and Catman, in civvies, show who’s bad as they encounter little league grocery store robbers, while the latter villain describes some kind of crisis of conscience. And back at the House of Secrets, the male members try to cheer up the hilariously named Scandal Savage, still upset at the death of her New God girlfriend Knockout.
This is my favourite scene in the book, and I’m not going to spoil it here; suffice to say it’s funny and weirdly sweet. Unlike Catman, who despite claims that he’s thinking of going good guy, is still too quick to savage folk for my liking. Then again, you could say he’s on a journey, and disgusted with himself.
As first issues go, this hits most of the required beats – we’re reintroduced to the regulars, the new mission is explained, there’s a nice feeling of trouble ahead and the new nemesis, while straddling a dangerous line between really silly and really scary, intrigues. Plus, the dialogue is whip smart (a cliche you’d never find Simone employing). The minor quibble I have is that if you don’t know who Bane is – yet another Batman villain, after Deadshot, Catman and former members Harley Quinn and Mad Hatter – you get no help here; still, he’ll get his moment in the sun.
The art is just lovely. Simone’s old Birds of Prey partner, Nicola Scott, is the regular penciller and, inked by regular collaborator Doug Hazlewood, provides sterling work – the attractive characters are sexy, the freakier folk creepy and the storytelling solid. Mind, Deadshot’s new facial hair arrangement is unforgivable – Zapata moustache and stupid soul patch. I love the guy, but honestly, is his judgement that bad?
Jason Wright’s colouring job is intelligent and good-looking, while Steve Wands gets to do Ragdoll’s distinctive lettering – one day I’d like a character in the story to describe his voice, so we know why just he has a personal font.
Cliff Chiang’s cover is pretty, but I do think Scott and Hazlewood should be given a crack at the job. I would, though, like to know what the strange swirl is that dominates/ruins the cover, obscuring the two shadowed new members. Is it an out-of-control question mark?
In all, this is a solid comic book. The atmosphere is grisly, but we don’t see anything to turn the stomach, and I was pleasantly surprised when a member didn’t do the obvious, and slaughter an innocent on a whim. Cos the nastier the Six get, the less I like them. Simone likes to tease fans that this is going to be a book that hovers close to the edge. That’s fine, so long as she takes a lesson from John Ostrander’s similarly be-villained Suicide Squad, and doesn’t go over said edge. Keeping villains bad while not having them unsympathetic? That’s a tough call, but so long as Simone doesn’t fall under the editorial remit of DC Executive Editor Dan Didio, she should be OK.
Oh dear, Lying in the Gutters this week reports that Secret Six Nachie Castro is leaving DC for Disney . . .