Take it from me, Blake. Good don’t last. But messed up, that goes on forever.
At the behest of Bane, the Secret Six are in Gotham to kill Batman’s loved ones. They tried to coerce Penguin into helping, but he’s been at this game longer than any of them, and has tipped off their mutual enemies. Soon the warehouse in which the villains are holed up is surrounded by a brace of heroes, and not just Gotham Knights. There are Birds of Prey, Titans, JLA and JSA-ers … with more arriving all the time. Can the Six bargain their way to freedom via some unexpected hostages, will they give themselves up or will they come out all guns/fists/blades/screams/teeth/bendiness blazing and take what comes?
It’s a tribute to writer Gail Simone’s character work over the last few years that I really couldn’t guess how our play would end. While the heroes were never going to let the bad guys walk, I could see a case for either of the other two scenarios, with perhaps a character or two coming out on the side of the white hats. What’s delivered is therefore surprising, yet elegantly consistent. Given that this book is being cancelled, I’m thrilled to bits that Simone at least gets to write an ending that’s true to her protagonists as they are now, and the series as a whole. But I’m sad that we’re unlikely to see Scandal, Bane, Catman, Deadshot, Killer Shark and Jeanette together again.
At least one of these characters is placed in position by the gracious Simone for a role in post-Flashpoint storylines, in a world with, so far as we know, no room for the Secret Six. Join me in a ‘sigh’?
But let’s celebrate the fact that for three years we’ve had a super-villain book with an astonishingly high level of character work. Played-out old baddies, fan favourites and new characters alike were gifted depth, allowed to show soul in some of the twistiest, turniest storylines I can remember. And we’ve had consistently great, personality-defining art from the likes of original penciller Nicola Scott and outgoing illustrator Jim Calafiore.
From the clever cover onward, Calafiore and colourist John Kalisz pull out all the stops to ensure the Six’s final fling is one we’ll be able to picture for some time after putting down the comic. Yes, the gathered heroes are impressive, but it’s the emotion on the part of the Six that really makes this issue fly visually. These guys are villains, united, but they’re people we’ve come to care for, with good alongside the bad, and it’s sad to see them so desperate, perhaps defeated.
This finale is packed to the rafters, there’s enough material here for a double issue. Simone and Calafiore keep the drama compact – too many big shots of the gathered heroes mean the eventual big battle is awfully squeezed – but the great moments are there to be enjoyed. My favourite sees Ragdoll giving Catman and Deadshot some good advice as they oversee Killer Shark’s supper arrangements (click on image to enlarge).
In the end, it’s love that brings the Secret Six down. And that’s a kind of redemption.