Friday, June 3, 2011

Review - Secret Six #34

Secret Six #34
Written by: Gail Simone
Art by: J. Calafiore

Before I get to the actual review portion of this post, I think it's only fair to mention that Secret Six is easily one of my favourite comic books coming out right now.  I would say, without hesitation, that it is the best superhero book being released by either of the Big 2 comic book publishers.  So, please be aware that I already maintain that everyone should be buying this series every single time a new issue comes out.  An uneven month from Secret Six is still better than most comics are at their best, while Secret Six, when firing on all cylinders, is almost indescribably sublime.

Happily, that is exactly what we got this month, as Simone and Calafiore team up once again to make one of the best issues of Secret Six in recent memory.

For those who do not know, the Secret Six are a supervillain / anti-hero team that Gail Simone first came up with during the Countdown to Infinite Crisis.  They originally had a few limited-serieses, but due to fan demand, eventually got their own ongoing.  The book features a team of (usually) six morally-questionable minor characters drawn from DC's expansive catalogue who have been thrown together through circumstance beyond their control as a mercenary team who will perform almost any job for whoever can afford their services.  Add in lots of intergroup conflict and more depravity than you can imagine DC brass every approving for publication, and you're starting to get an idea of what this book is about.

The last arc saw the team literally going to Hell to retrieve Scandal Savage's deceased, Knockout, and along the way, discovering that they were all unequivocally damned for eternity for who they are and their life choices.  A bit of a downer for them, I suppose.

After such a harrowing experience, the group was in need of some time to come to terms with these daunting revelations, and that's exactly what this issue is all about, a done-in-one breather for everyone to relax a bit.  Or, to relax as much as this strange, peculiar group possibly can.

As mentioned above, some of these choices are unsettling, if not outright ethically deplorable, but Simone always manages to emphasize the humanity of these characters and make them relatively sympathetic.  This is no small feat, since every member of the Secret Six is a murderer, traitor, and generally, all-around reprehensible human being.  Despite that fact, they're also somehow a family that cares about each other, something that Simone really hits home this issue.  It's strangely warming.

Calafiore does what he always does, which is compliment Simone's writing perfectly.  Since the two have started working together on this title, Calafiore has done a fabulous job framing scenes, depicting the characters' emotions, and generally doing a bang up job on every panel he draws.  This issue is no exception to that winning formula.

Closing Thoughts - Almost every single page, if not every single panel, is a highlight in this issue.  The amount of character work in this issue is staggering, to say the least.

I could go on and on about how wonderful this issue was (and it was quite wonderful), but instead, let me put it this way.  Since DC has reduced the page count on all of their books from twenty-two to twenty pages, I've found that many creators have struggled to adjust, often turning in stories that feel rushed, short, or downright incomplete.  Perhaps the greatest compliment I can offer Simone and Calafiore is that Secret Six never feels that way.  Ever.  Every time, every single issue, I feel like I'm getting the whole story.

And what a story it is this time around.

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