Are you back from fucking yourself? Good. While you were out, Gail Simone continued to crush it in comics — Secret Six #32 is another exemplary work from one of the most underrated writers in comics. Anytime a comic’s opening caption is “Hell,” you know you’re in for some seriously fun shit. Every month this comic continues to become funnier, tighter and bad-assier than the previous installments. Part 2 of the current “The Darkest House” arc is a comic more aggressive and action-packed than even some of the previous issues and, as usual, an absolute delight to read.
The book’s strongpoint has always been its characterization, and this issue devotes a large portion to the previously deaded Ragdoll. The team finds him in Hell leading the Secret Six Hundred and Sixty Six (HELL YES,) a team of demons and former Secret Six victims doomed to an afterlifetime of torture. Through flashbacks we not only learn how Ragdoll came into possession of the prized “Get Out of Hell Free” card that Scandal seeks, but through a one-sided story we learn much more about Peter Merkel Jr. than even he expected to tell us. Even subtle moments, like Deadshot having a last smoke or Bane having an existential crisis, resonate far beyond the last pages of the book. It’s frankly an amazing revelation on Simone’s part for these characters to react so differently when they all share such similarities in their former trades as villains.
J. Calafiore’s pencils continue to improve, and his faces/poses are more consistent and brave than ever. The way he draws Scandal Savage and Knockout can only be described as “bonerlicious,” from a purely professional standpoint. As much as the layouts were great in the previous issue, a one page fight scene blows that shit out of proportion. Using character-shaped panels (like Scott Snyder and Francesco Francavilla did in Detective Comics #874) spread diagonally in all directions, it gives the scene the urgency and violent cacophony that a fight with demons would have. John Kalisz’s warm palette gives the art a sinewy touch, and it creates a genuinely atmospheric feel. The heat is almost palpable, and Kalisz does a fabulous job of generating the life out of the pencils.
Simone and Califiore have an awe-inspiring understanding of each other, and it shows with the way that this book has consistently become bolder, daring and a must-read every single month. If you’re not following Secret Six, you should start, or face eternal damnation.