‘Secret Six’ Volume 1 Is a Puzzle Wrapped in an E. Nygma

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Secret_Six_(2015)_DC_logo
All Images: DC Comics.

Remember how, in The Avengers and its various sequels and extensions, a group of heroes with different personalities and varied powers come together to save the world from <Insert Villainous Threat Here>?

Or, maybe you’re getting stoked for the imminent release of Suicide Squad, where a group of the worst-of-the-worst criminals with different (yet all psychopathic) personalities and varied powers are sent by a quasi-governmental paramilitary organization to <Insert… uh, Something Morally Objectionable and Most Likely Deadly Here>.

So, you’re thinking to yourself, Self, I like a good team-up. Let’s see what this Secret Six book is all about. You’re thinking it might be more like The Avengers or it might be more like Suicide Squad, and you’ be fine with either one as long as it told a good story.

And you’d be wrong on all counts.

Masks
This is about the extent of the character building. Get to know the masks, because you’re not really going to get to know the characters.

Secret Six Volume 1, out in trade paperback today, features a random group of six (seven, depending on how you’re counting) minor-league toughs thrown together in a puzzlebox of a prison cell. They weren’t hand-picked in such a way that their powers compliment one another. They weren’t assembled for some grand mission. In fact, there is no mission here at all, except for the one these people make for themselves, which is to find who did this to them and make that person pay.

This book collects the first six issues of Gail Simone’s run as writer of the 2015 version of the title. While her name alone is often enough to send comics fans reaching for their wallets, I have a hard time giving this book a “of course you should buy it” recommendation. The artwork is inconsistent, a result of having too many artists working on a given issue at a given time (always a danger in collections like these). Artists Ken Lashley, Dale Eaglesham, and Tom Derenick are all listed on the cover as having had a hand in this collection.

Art Compare2
Here is an example of two very different art styles in this one story collected from six issues for this book.

That inconsistency would have been easier to overlook had the story really been infused with a sense of urgency. Don’t get me wrong, the panels say that this team is on a mission to quickly find out who the Mockingbird is, but the action isn’t really driven home.

The fact that there are six (or seven) members in this group and most of them are not going to be household names, particularly for those without a strong sense of where these characters fit into the current incarnation of the DC multiverse, makes it hard to get a fix on who these characters are and what their motivations are. Some might say that is part of the mystery, making treachery more believable, but some (like myself) call it trying to cram too much into too little. Yes, we see what each individual’s abilities are, but the character whose personality is the most revealed and endearing is the only character who doesn’t speak.

Wiener1
Personally, I’d have preferred a page of actual story momentum over a full-page panel innuendo that my fifth-grade son thought was lame.

For those who are interested in the book, I won’t spoil the betrayals and reveals throughout. This is not meant to be a self-contained story, just the first act in a larger narrative. Taking all of that into account–the inconsistent artwork, the lack of real narrative punch, and the fact that this book fails to provide any real sense of closure to the story unfolding on these pages–and with better books hitting the shelves this week, I can only recommend this book to the DC completists and die-hard Gail Simone fans out there.

Disclaimer: A review copy was provided. The opinions contained in this article are my own.

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