Thursday, April 16, 2009

Review: Secret Six #8

Secret Six #8

Writer: Gail Simone
Penciller: Carlos Rodriguez
Inker: Bit
Released: April 8, 2009

This issue clearly and powerfully demonstrates what makes this title a standout every month, and it does so in what could have easily been a done-in-one filler of no consequence. Instead, it's possibly the strongest and funniest issue so far and an example of how this series works at its best. 

Complete plaudits must most deservedly go to writer Gail Simone who has really taken hold of this series and imbued it with a sense of life so often missing from traditional superhero fare. The premise is a team book cliche -- the ragtag group of C-list misfits brought together to take on impossible missions and generally clash against each others eccentric personalities. In Simone's capable hands this cliche becomes a mere springboard from which to fling all manner of brilliance into the air, and then watch with glee as it often crashes wonderfully to the ground. 

The characters that make up the Secret Six are all beautifully realized and, over the course of these first eight issues, have become complete people, not just a collection of costumes and powers. The individual idiosyncrasies, predilections, humors, and moralities of each member have been developed honestly without force or cliche, and through this natural process have shown the members to be of great depth and complication. Villains -- such as Deadshot, Bane, and Scandal Savage -- presented elsewhere as one-note assassins, brutes or freaks, here shine in three-dimensional flesh and blood. They are men and women who have made only slightly different choices and use only slightly different rationalizations than the heroes of the greater DCU. In fact, my most immediate reaction upon finishing issue #8 was the realization of how limiting and useless the term "villain" seemed in light of what I had just read. None of these characters are really villains, though they do not fit the classical definition of hero, either. They are just people who have found themselves in their own skins, for better and for worse. 

The remarkable accomplishment of this book is how, for a title so on the fringe of the DCU littered as it is with C-listers, it operates so firmly within and revels gloriously and hilariously in the utter chaotic beauty of the DC Universe. In issue #8 alone we get an all-girl rock band with each member dressed as Power Girl, a club bouncer attired as Classic Black Lightning, and a product shout-out to a Booster Gold cologne. More than just being Easter egg eye-winks for DCU nerds, these moments serve to solidify a comic book universe into a real living and breathing entity.

I have not even begun to scratch the surface of this issue and that is all due to Simone's deft ability to fit so much story into so few pages without it feeling labored or strained. It's bursting at the saddle-staples with everything that seems to be missing from so many superhero comics these days: Romance, humor, in-depth characterizations, and a genuine love for its form and the universe it operates in. Secret Six is a comic book written as a comic book, not an illustrated screenplay on spec. Its pages pulsate with a palpable love for 70-plus years of ridiculous, confusing, and erratic DCU continuity. It's absolutely beautiful.

Thank you, Gail.

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