Open Mike Night: Grayson #5/Secret Six (2014) #1

Maillaro: Got two brand new DC books this week. Both of them odd in their own ways…

Grayson #5

Written by: Tim King and Tim Seeley
Art by:  Mikel Janin
Colored by: Jeromy Cox
Lettered by: Carlos M. Mangual
Cover by:  Mikel Janin

Published by: DC
Cover Price: $2.99

Weaver: Let’s start off by saying I haven’t read very many DC Comics since Crisis on Infinite Earths.  As a fan of the previous DC multiverse, I just stopped buying DC totally at that time.  So my knowledge of people like, say, Midnighter is minimal.  I didn’t even know who he was til almost the end.

That said.  This story drops us into the middle of a situation involving Dick, Helena, and Midnighter flying a pregnant woman across a desert, the woman dies while giving birth, so the three of them and the baby have to head across the desert.  There’s something significant about this baby’s heart, and we get hints at the end, but I’m assured that we don’t really know anything going in to this issue about it.

The art on this book was gorgeous.  They did some really neat things with panel layouts, layering the art in a way that gives us the scope of what’s happening in the background and some specific detail in the panels.  And the characters trying to survive their trek across the desert was something I thought would get old quick, but it didn’t.

Maillaro: I have to admit, I was thrown off at first when I started reading this issue.  I genuinely thought I missed an issue.  And then I thought maybe this was In Media Res, and they would catch us up to what was going on.  Nope.   We never quite find out who the baby is, where this heart came from, or how Midnighter, Dick, and Helena were in a plane crash in the desert.   There is ONE page in the last issue that references some of this, but that is it.

At first, this really annoyed me…but as usual, Grayson ended up winning me over.  I can’t stay pissed at this book, even when I want to.  They are constantly pushing the envelope and doing new things.  And doing them well.  So even when I start out annoyed, by the end of the issue, I end up loving the story I just read.  And that is exactly what happened here.

This also happened in the Future’s End issue.  It was done like Momento, with the entire issue being told backwards, one page at a time with big time jumps between each page.  But, when you read it…and then reread it, and then read it backwards, you keep finding new brilliant things laid out throughout the issue.

I hate the way this book tortures me as a reader…but at the same time, I love it.

Weaver:  I have no experience with this comic, but based on this issue, I agree.  It seems like a comic that’s trying to do things in different ways and stay away from the main comic cliches, and that’s pretty cool.  I do kind of wonder how Helena stayed alive long enough to get extracted, but hey, comics.

It’s also cool that the mcguffin…the baby in this case…ends up essentially getting babynapped at the end.  Not quite, since the people who take the baby legitimately want to care for it and assume that Dick’s basically dead, but it definitely goes off Grayson’s radar.

Maillaro: I also want to throw in the fact that I love the fact DC is doing a genuine spy book, and I love the idea that a “dead” Dick Grayson is working undercover spying on the spy organization.   Image’s Velvet is another real good spy book, but I will say that I think Grayson is doing it far better.

Weaver: Spy is one of those genres that occasionally shows up in comics…SHIELD, for instance, and it’s a pretty cool separation from typical superheroics, but sadly, it doesn’t typically last long.  I think where Grayson succeeds here is that it has the name recognition of the original Robin and the story is something completely different and intriguing.

Maillaro: You were right about the art on this book. It did look great.  Though as a digital reader, I actually hate when books use so many two page spreads.  They were gorgeous on this issue…but a real pain in the ass to keep zooming in and out on my tablet (I have a 10 inch Samsung Note) to read them.  How did it read on the PC?

Weaver: It was fine on the PC.  I find that most comics I can generally read the words while it’s in the full page formats, and they do put both pages together when the art uses two page spread formats.  And then if there’s something I want more detail on or can’t read, I can just zoom in.  I guess like a lot of things, it performs better on Actual Computers.

Maillaro: So…scores…  5/5 for the art.  I don’t think it’s fair to penalize the creators since they aren’t really writing and drawing comics to be read on a tablet.  4/5 for the writing.  I liked it a lot, but I didn’t like that I had to work so hard to catch up on a series I read every month.

Weaver: Obviously, I agree on the art.  It was beautiful.  As for the writing…I don’t read it every month, so I don’t have as much of an issue with it.  It did something different, and I like that too.  Ultimately, though, I think a 4 is fair on that too.  It experimented a little, and some things it threw at the wall stuck, but some things fell off too.

Maillaro: OH!  One small thing that really annoyed me about this issue.  Completely forgot.  How exactly did they fit an assumingly adult sized SUPERHUMAN heart into a baby?  It’s clearly a shape shifting heart too.

Weaver: I assumed that it was some kind of prophesized genetic anomaly or something.  That didn’t really impact me.

Maillaro: Yeah, it was a small thing, but I did think it needed to be mentioned.

Secret Six (2014) #1
Written by: Gail Simone
Penciled by: Ken Lashley
Inked by: Ken Lashley and Drew Geraci
Colored by:  Jason Wright
Lettered by: Carlos M. Mangual
Cover by: Dale Eaglesham and Jason Wright

Published by: DC
Cover Price: $2.99

Maillaro: Okay, Weaver my friend.  Here’s a helmet and a cup.  You’re going to need it, this review has the potential to be dangerous to your life, limb, and sanity.  Gail Simone fans  are fiercely protective.  Like Chris Nolan fans, Coldplay fans, and Harley Quinn fans.  So, we may be walking into a minefield here.

First off, I want to give a warned to any fans of the previous Secret Six book.  It doesn’t seem to have any real connection to this series.  The only real connection I saw was Thomas Blake (Catman) and Black Alice.  The rest of the characters in this book were all characters I was not all that familiar with.

Weaver: Clearly, the characters don’t know what’s going on here either, so it’s not just us.  I’ll start with the positive: the opening sequence with Catman was pretty cool.  I kind of wonder why whatever shadow organization this is wouldn’t dot their i’s and cross their t’s enough to realize an error like their whole crew having one badge number, but I’m glad to handwave that for the sake of a nice scene.

And then there’s the rest of the comic.

Maillaro: This comic really reminded me of Saw meets Avengers Arena.  Bunch of random characters thrown together by a mysterious figure testing them.  Actually, this reminds me a lot of the first issue of New 52 Suicide Squad, the characters are being auditioned for some kind of role in a new Secret Six team.  At least I assume that is what is happening here.

For the most part, I liked the mystery here.  Take a bunch of random characters put them in a terrifying situation and fill in the blanks later.  Don’t get me wrong, it’s something that has been done to death.   Everything from Lost to Persons Unknown to Avengers Arena.  BUT, for the most part, I thought it was done pretty well here.

Weaver: I would tend to agree.  I am a sucker for that type of story, where hopefully eventually we find out: why these particular six people?  I’m sorry, seven characters.  What’s the endgame?  What are they auditioning for?  Some of the innuendo dialogue felt a little forced to me, but in general, we’ve got all the staples of this kind of story: mysterious message, thrown together by fate, something very well may kill you, and the extra bonus of seeing the guy who got you there dead and maimed.  The characters assume from salt water coming in that they’re at the bottom of the ocean, but I hesitate to buy into that, since that water wasn’t more than a trickle, essentially.  I don’t get what’s happening, but I am curious.

Maillaro:  I do have some concerns about this book being able to maintain an audience long enough to get those answers though.  I bought this book pretty much entirely because of how much i loved the last Secret Six series.  I am not sure there is enough here to appeal to people who liked the deep characterizations and tight plotting we got there.

And the “What is the Secret?” riddle seemed to require the reader to be following the New 52 fairly closely.  Why is there a Talon mask in the box?  And what do the rest of those masks represent?  No clue…and not sure they gave me enough of a hook to care all that much.

I also want to go on record by saying I really don’t like the new Ventriloquist.  Not that the old Ventriloquist was all that great a character, but this nutty female version has done nothing for me the few comics I’ve read with her.

Weaver: Oh thank goodness.  I thought I was alone in thinking this series has no star power and people are unlikely to check it out.  It feels like a story that wants to succeed almost despite its lack of recognizable characters, but that’s a tough thing to force.  It would have to be a lot better than this in order to pull people in.

About the female Ventriloquist…sheesh.  I’m of the same opinion.  The worst dialogue in the issue was either from her or because of her.

I do like that claustrophobia is starting to kick in, especially with Catman and Black Alice.  It seems like they’re more concerned with being trapped than how to go about figuring out what the secret is.

Maillaro:  The last series was smart enough to have Deadshot as a featured character and to use characters like Bane or Harley to fill the roster out at various times to give the book star power.  Instead, we get Porcelain, Strix, and Big Shot.  I don’t even know if any of these characters existed before this book…and I found it kind of hard to care.  I really can’t imagine DC was going to bank on the name value of Catman…I know he’s sort of getting a cult following, but that isn’t going to help this book survive.

Weaver: And sadly that’s a problem with a lot of really good books.  Our favorite, Morbius, being one example.

Maillaro:  And Fearless Defenders…RIP!

Weaver: I see books like this, exploring some unusual characters, and I want them to work out.  I liked Big Shot probably the best of any of these characters, although not enough to figure out if he was original to the book or not.  Part of that is New 52, though…some characters are more different than their old DC versions than others, so it sometimes just confuses me more to find out what they used to be.

I’m not sure how to score this.  I generally liked the issue, but some of the dialogue was a little too frivolous and clunky. Also, I naturally want to score it higher because I like the use of lesser known characters.  I’d give it a 3.5 on writing. The art…it was fine, nothing special, but serviceable.  I’d go 3.5 on that too, since honestly, serviceable seems to be an exception when it comes to lesser titles.

Maillaro:  I did think the art set a nice dark tone for the issue, but at the same time, the characters didn’t really stand out at me.  They all looked so generic.  Hell, if I didn’t know the name Thomas Blake, I would have had no idea that was even supposed to be Catman, and I’ve read a lot of comics with him.  So I am going with a 2.5 on the art.

I would definitely go a little higher with the writing (and no, that is not just because I am afraid of a Gail Simone fan setting fire to the website).  I liked that it was trying to do something different and had the balls to do it with a pretty non-star powered roster.  So, I am going to go with a 4/5 on the writing.

Weaver: I definitely like the non-star powered roster, but again, I don’t think that can make this sell.

Weaver: Any ideas on next week?

Maillaro:  Yep.  Afterlife with Archie is starting its second arc!

Weaver: Can’t wait.  I’m going to exhume an old issue from somewhere and force you to read it.

Maillaro:  Just don’t have Sabrina the Teenage Witch bring it back to life…that trick never works, Bullwinkle…

Final Scores

Maillaro – Story Weaver – Story Maillaro – Art Weaver – Art
Secret Six (2014) #1 2.5 3.5 4 3.5
Grayson #5 4 4 5 5

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