‘Secret Six’ #30 – Meeting New People, Not Killing Them All [Review]
For a team that lives in its own corner of the DC universe filled with bawdy sex and whimsical murder sprees, the Secret Six have been wrapped up in a lot of crossovers lately. Coming off of a two-issue arc that it shared with the Lex Luthor's Action Comics run, this week's Secret Six begins another short crossover with the Doom Patrol. The two teams are also joined by a character whose life is more than a little reminiscent of the lead character from Mark Millar and J.G. Jones' Wanted. As you might guess all this crossing over results in an issue that's fast paced and a little crowded, but there are more than enough of the great moments writer Gail Simone routinely creates for these characters to make it worth picking up.
The great strength of Secret Six throughout its run has been its ability to take B-list (or lower) villains and turn them into well developed, engaging characters. In issue 30, Simone and artist Jim Calafiore give a turn in the spotlight to Bane. Bane's been growing into a more nuanced noble warrior who brutally kills people throughout his time on the team, particularly through the father figure role he's taken on towards Scandal Savage. The highlight of this issue turns that relationship around about and sees Scandal try to take a nurturing approach to Bane by setting him up on a date. Or, more specifically, by having her stripper girlfriend set him up on a date with a co-worker.
Now, generally speaking when you hear the words "Bane" and "Gentleman's Club" you'd expect the scenario that follows to involve a large, blunt wooden object used to hit people in tuxedos who exclaim "Oh my word" right after a monocle drops out of their eye and their skull gets caved in. The way it's handled, though, with Bane approaching the date with uncertainty and cluelessness masked over by the same cold demeanor of confidence he'd normally bring into a fight to the death, is great. While the scene's only five pages, it sells the entire issue itself.
The actual story revolves around the Six being hired to clear out the population of a small volcanic island so that it can be converted into a supervillain's headquarters. Protecting the island are the Doom Patrol, an excellent counterpart of lesser known quirky heroes to match up with against the Secret Six and also a way to have Gail Simone write dialogue for Ambush Bug.
The supervillain who hires the Six is someone we're introduced to only by his first name, Eric. Eric was, up until recently, a twenty-one year old slacker who spent most of his day playing video games, not looking for work and arguing with his step-father. That was, until his grandfather passed him away and left Eric his massive fortune and arsenal of supervillain weaponry. Eric's grandpa was up to no good back in his day and now Eric's decided to carry on his legacy. The similarities to Wanted, the Top Cow series by Mark Millar and J.G. Jones about a young slacker who inherited his father's legacy as a supervillain in a setting that was a thinly veiled analogue of the DC Universe, are obvious. But I can't help liking this story more, mostly because Eric's not presented with the implication of being a wish fulfillment fantasy and the character that you, the reader, are supposed to relate to is a big loser just like you are. Eric's not a likable guy, and the book doesn't try to make you think he is. I'm hoping we'll get to see some scenes of interaction between him, the Six, and the Doom Patrol in the second half of this story because I'd like to see how characters like Bane, Catman and Deadshot react to a lazy guy who hits the jackpot and now wants to live like a Bond villain. The actual hiring of the team, however, takes place off panel.
That brings me to my one complaint about the book. With two teams featured in the issue, as well as a side plot introducing a completely new character along with that character's family and friends, things happen quickly. Having the page count cut down from twenty-two to twenty pages probably isn't helping shake off a feeling of the events being rushed. Also not helping is that the Bane date scene I mentioned earlier is the best part of the book and happens at the beginning of the issue, so the story peaks early and tapers off. It makes me wish for a full issue focused on Bane's date alone.
Still, it's another thoroughly enjoyable issue from a consistently enjoyable series. Simone's dialogue is strong, as usual. Calafiore's asked to portray a huge cast of heroes and villains and strippers dressed like heroes and villains, and he does a great job conveying everything from Eric's insufferable smugness to Bane's nonchalant ferocity to Robotman's frustration with Ambush Bug. Given how much goes on in this issue -- especially in scenes without dialogue -- Calafiore gets major points for making the story work as well as it does.