Review: Secret Six #35 By Gail Simone And Jim Calafiore

Secret Six #35

Written by Gail Simone

Art by Jim Calafiore and John Kalisz

 

With the announcement of the DC relaunch, and the knowledge of which books aren’t going to be returning, I’ve found myself regretting not covering some titles more. Secret Six has been one of my favorite books month in and month out for going on three years now, and really ever since Gail debuted the concept in Villain United back in the leadup to Infinite Crisis. She assembled a band of bad guys and made one of the most interesting teams DC Comics has been publishing, with great characterization, a sharp wit, and utterly insane plots. This book has been a homerun from day one, and while I wasn’t surprised that it wasn’t part of the The New 52, I was also surprised to realize that it’s been almost three years of one volume! Who knew that a book like this would last this long! It’s a true testament to the abilities of Gail Simone, as I’m preparing to mourn the loss of seeing some of these characters in a monthly title. Catman…Scandal, I’m looking at you.

From the first few pages of the issue you get the feeling that this book truly has begun its final story arc, and on the heels of their recent trip to hell I can tell that Gail definitely had this planned. Our characters have tip-toed the lines of villainy for the last few years, and with Black Alice gone, not a single one of them really classifies as a ‘good person’, rather there are just varying degrees of evil going on here. It seems that after the realizations of their trip to hell that there is a lot less motivation to be righteous when you know that you’re winding up in the hot and firey place, and the new Venom injector in Bane’s neck is proof enough of that. Amidst random face punching, and all kinds of debauchery (Jeanette and Deadshot in the kitchen really stands out), Bane declares himself Napoleon and decides it’s time to finally bring down the target that has had the most influence on him.

Bane is an incredibly interesting character, and Gail has done some amazing things with the man best known for his breaking of the Bat. He went from a drugged up strong man to a brilliant strategist with a deep code of honor. He’s been the righteous fury of the team in this volume, and it has been his ideals and actions that have driven our characters forward. He comes to a realization in this issue that has been building for a while, and which makes an incredible amount of sense out of his character over the past decade or so. His claim to fame is his breaking of the Bat, but in the long run Batman came out stronger, and Bane became a shell of his former self. For as awesome as he has been in this book, and for as many attempts as writers made to bring him back to his former glory, Bane has never recaptured that moment of greatness where he broke Bruce Wayne’s spine. I honestly hope that this development isn’t lost in the Relaunch, as it would be a damn shame.

Scandal and Knockout have some interesting moments as well, with Kay back from the dead but still traumatized by her time in hell, and Scandal not really thinking about it. I never really cared for Knockout, and to be honest, seeing Scandal choose her over Liana kind of irked me. Having a supporting character, a romantic one at that, who was innocent despite her own profession (Liana was a stripper), was an interesting choice for the book. A team of hardcore killer mercenaries who walk the tightrope of good and evil, and one of them dates a girl who wouldn’t hurt a fly. One who was tortured nearly to death and still didn’t want the Six to kill her kidnapper. I mean, yes, of course they killed her, but they told her they didn’t. Though I will say that Knockout’s reemergence of personality later in the issue made me smirk, of course a Fury from Apokolips would be reawakened by laughter in combat.

King Shark remains the best addition to this book, and while he was a late addition, he steal the scene damn near every time he’s on panel. He’s why I love Gail so much, this is exactly what I would do if I had such a ridiculous character for my book. He’s a ****ing shark! He’s so freaking awesome! I can only imagine that he’s as fun for her to write as he is for me to read.

Anyway, the plot that develops is Bane wanting to truly break the Bat once and for all, so it becomes time for the Six to decide just who they want to be. The issue may seem relatively straight forward with their actions and where they are going, and with one issue left it would be hard to imagine them having a giant swerve, but at the same time…it’s Gail. Nothing is ever as it seems with her, and it keeps readers eternally on their toes. And even the relatively out there plot maintains consistency, as Catman is immediate in holding his ground in favor of protecting a certain someone with whom he has an interesting relationship. Jeanette and Deadshot get a few moments that almost read like Gail saying goodbye to the book through them, and Jeanette almost seems to be Gail’s voice at times. It’s subtle and well done, but their talks do feel like an impending goodbye.

The conflict of the second half of the issue revolves around their recruitment of the eighth person for the Secret Six, and while I won’t spoil just who it is here, I’m really interested in just how they will play into the last issue of this book.

Jim Calafiore took over this book as the primary artist a while ago (he’ll have drawn just over half of the series by the time it wraps next month), after Nicola Scott moved on to other projects, and he more than made it his own. I’ve been a fan of his for years after first being exposed to his work on Marvel’s Exiles, and I love the style he brings to this book. There is no confusing characters out of costume, the attention to detail, even the little things, is awesome. Everyone has their own unique looks and mannerisms, the characters have their own personalities without needing to say a word. The action is incredibly well put together, his experience bringing a lot to the table in terms of understanding how to pace it visually. The lighting, the shading, the use of shadows; perfect. King Shark storming the gates? Awesome looking.

By this point, with this issue, I’m not really reviewing it to say to run out and grab this issue and the next. I mean, I am, but with the book ending next month it feels weird to make a sales pitch. At the same time, if you haven’t done yourself the favor of reading this book then you’ve really been missing out. Gail Simone has crafted one of the best all around books in comics month in and month out for three years now, and I as a fan had begun to take it for granted. I was so used to the book being good that I stopped really thinking about how much I appreciated the effort being put into it. Understanding that the end is near really, if anything, just makes me look at everything in a new light. I love this book, I’m upset that it’s ending, and that come September I won’t be able to go to the comic shop every month and get a new issue by Gail and Jim featuring these characters. But at the same time, I’m not afraid of what will happen to these characters next, as I own every book that Gail has written involving them, and so I’m always going to have those.

If you’ve never read Secret Six, I’m going to put up some Amazon links to all of the trades. Do yourself a favor and check them out, you won’t be sorry.

It’s been a great run, and I can’t wait to see just how things wrap up.

 

Overall?

9/10

 

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