Secret Six #35
Written by: Gail Simone
Art by: J. Calafiore
I'm going to miss this book so much. I've raved about how amazing Secret Six is for years, telling anyone who would give me even a moment of their time that this book is something special. And every month Gail Simone and J. Calafiore prove the truth of that statement by putting out one of the best and most unique comics out there. What's more impressive is that Simone and Calafiore continue to raise their game, month in and month out. After reading every issue, I declare it to be the best thing they've done, only to go back on my word when it comes to the following issue. Well, they've done it again. Secret Six #35 is the best issue of Secret Six I have ever read. Frankly, it's one of the best comics I have ever read.
To be honest, I don't even know where to begin in praising this book. Everything that happens works. The writing, the pacing, the art, the panel layout, everything. It all serves the story and works together like a well-oiled machine.
The book opens with a conversation / confrontation between Bane and Catman, where Bane explains his thoughts on the fact that he, and the rest of the team, are destined to eternal damnation (as shown in Secret Six #33). Simone's depiction of Bane as a man who lives by a code - albeit a strange, warped code - rings true here, for Bane reveals that he has determined the only sane response is to live a complete life before dying. Of course, this being a Secret Six book, in Bane's mind, living a complete life means finishing the moment he's best known for and destroying Batman. The conversation plays out beautifully, taking place over the course of skirmish between Catman and Bane whose earnestness is never clear.
Simone interrupts this talk, which lasts a total of seven pages, to dedicate two pages to character moments for other character in the book. The first is a page featuring Deadshot and Jeannette after a particularly intense round of loving making in the kitchen. It hits incredibly serious and incredibly lighthearted moments, providing further foreshadowing, with Jeannette continuing to talk about the death that surrounds everything, and featuring a hilarious King Shark moment where he walks in with his eyes covered, due to the couple's nakedness, hoping to get a bite to eat. The second is a page featuring Scandal Savage and Knockout that shows how traumatizing and damaging Knockout's time in Hell truly was (read: incredibly).
From here, the book moves at a break neck pace, with the team agreeing to help Bane destroy Batman and his family, planning the mission, and going to get some intelligence to ensure the plan's success. The search for intelligence takes them to an assault on the hideout of someone who can help them, and this entire sequence is fantastic. Somehow, while infiltrating to all-out-attacking the minions of the building in question, Simone and Calafiore manage to provide numerous, incredibly strong character moments to almost every single character featured in this book. King Shark perhaps gets the most face time, but Scandal Savage, Knockout, Jeannette, Deadshot, Catman, and Bane all have moments that are both super cool and are meaningful for the individual character. Simone is at the top of her game in this issue, packing every moment of the issue with something important and relevant to the series without making it feel overwhelming. Even the reveal towards the end of the issue of whose hideout the Secret Six are attacking follows this philosophy, as Simone picks a character that both has a history with the group and can help them with their attack against Gotham's protector.
It goes without saying, but Calafiore's through this entire issue is brilliant. His panel layout is some of the most exciting I see in comics today, always managing to perfectly communicate the actions of every page. Even if the word balloons and captions boxes were absent, it would be crystal clear what is happening throughout the story. I was sad when Nicola Scott left Secret Six all those months ago, but J. Calafiore has stepped in and filled those shoes with ease. At this point, I can't imagine this book without Calafiore's art, and the fact that he doesn't have any work in the September relaunch is criminal.
Final Thoughts - Gail Simone and J. Calafiore are doing some of the best work of their careers here and that makes for absolutely phenomenal comics. There is nothing else like this on the stands and the world will be poorer for Secret Six's cancellation come September. That being said, the book is going out on one hell of a high note. Not only is this a fantastic issue, the premise of trying to kill the entire Batfamily come next issue is something I cannot wait to see. Logic dictates that they can't succeed, but whatever does end up happening is going to be awesome (in both the classic and the modern sense of the word).
You need to be reading this book.