Michael Bettendorf: Well folks, there was nothing on my pull list this week so I decided to pick up a copy of Secret Six #1 to see what it’s all about. As far as I can tell this book is about explosions. Am I close? I’m all for action sequences. When they’re done well they can be an effective storytelling technique, but this? Did Michael Bay have anything to do with this comic? There’s roughly 5-6 pages in Secret Six where someone isn’t being thrown across a room or having their face shoved into the mangled pavement. A lot of the scenes don’t warrant the violence or action in any way. When, uh, who’s the main character again? There was so much going on I don’t even know his name. (I didn’t read the previous incarnation of Secret Six) Anyway, when he comes to in the holding cell they’re all faced with the omnicient onlooker running the clock down for them to tell the secret. They’re trying to have a conversation, figuring out who’s who – so, why do three of them have to get into a scuffle over absolutely nothing? If it was a way to introduce the characters, then it just didn’t work for me. I’m sure the characters have a lot more to their personalities that short fuses and chucking people across rooms. It seemed lazy and a way to get out of writing dialogue that would push the story further or relay a small amount of information to us.
Mark Stack: This is a book full of unnecessary conflict. The fight that more or less opens the book doesn’t really serve a purpose beyond vaguely introducing Thomas Blake, Catman, as a hyper-competent badass that women want to be with and that men also want to be with. The thing is, that’s all we learn about him as the book shifts into a locked room mystery that only plays courtesy to the concept of having a mystery with the single question, “What’s the secret?” The rest of the book is devoted to that locked room and having the characters snipe at each other before punches start being thrown. I don’t know about any of you but my first instinct when I’m somewhere I’m unfamiliar with is to at least try to establish a meaningful dialogue with someone. Instead, we get violent outbursts that don’t really tell me anything about these characters Michael and I are struggling to apply names to.
Jamil Scalese: Let me start by saying that I adore the original Secret Six ongoing. I consider it to be one of the best monthly series of the last decade, without a doubt. In fact, Secret Six was probably one of DC’s most consistently great titles before the New 52 reboot, so it’s very comforting to see the publisher give the concept back to its creator for another go around.
That said, I’m taken aback at how different this iteration of the Squad is from Gail Simone’s previous version. The Scandal Savage-led team was a covert group of supervillains on special assignment but the sinister, horror-tinged mystery we have here is something akin to No Exit or Cube. Basically, the only thing that’s remains the same concept-wise is an eclectic and dangerous group of characters forced together by circumstance. Oh, and Catman. We still got Thomas Blake, but it seems that’s a wholly different iteration too.
MB: Ok, Catman. Thanks for the help, Mark. It’s pretty bad when the comic doesn’t tell you who the character is. Sure it alludes to it, but for someone coming into the comic with zero knowledge of these characters you need more than an allusion.
The big “secret” is supposed to be the hook for the book, but I still find myself asking, “why should I even care?” because none of the characters are that likeable. Big Shot seems ok and Kani has potential to being a fully fleshed out character. The other characters just don’t have enough to them. Perhaps it seems unfair given this is a first issue, but c’mon. First issues are supposed to provide readers a reason to care. I’m less concerned about the “secret” and more curious about these people that are held captive in this locked room. I want to care that they get out. I want to see some dimension to them.
Did anyone else find the art a bit chaotic or confusing?
MS: Ugh, yes. There’s a panel that really stuck out to me on page five that made me steamed. All the detail was on the unnamed characters running away in the foreground while Catman was barely a rough outline in the background. He didn’t have clothes, hair, or a face! It’s endemic of the whole issue; the details are there but they’re in the wrong places.
MB: That panel on page 5 also messed with me. The sequence to the next panel was confusing. It appeared that Catman jumped off the pool table, just to be back on the pool table in the next panel. It was strange and not very clear. Mark, you’re right. The detail is there, just not in the right places.
Regarding the inescapable cube…didn’t Porcelain say she can make anything brittle? “The harder the better.” So why didn’t she try to crumble the cube? Just saying.
JS: I got the impression that any attempt made to escape got them zapped. Also, though Porcelain wouldn’t have known it, the fact that the iron box is at the bottom of the ocean (or at least that’s what Thomas believes) kind of negates her using that cool power of hers to escape. Although I get the point: why didn’t she try?
Know what’s weird? I agree with you guys almost completely on the art. It’s jarring and too much and completely derivative from the clean, emotive look Nicola Scott and Dave Eaglesham (who will be working on the second arc) provided in the last volume. Notice how the inkers change for the last third of the book? The art goes from hectic and too ferocious to strangely docile and wonky. It bugs me the hell out of me.
And that opening scene of Catman wrecking a group of imposter State Troopers? Nearly pointless, other to show how capable and claustrophobic the de facto main character is.
I didn’t enjoy this comic until the scene in the cube, and I have to tell you, I loved it. I have no problem with bad guys being jerks to each other, or fighting a whole bunch for no particular reason. These aren’t the protagonists we’re used to. They’re not rationale or even sane. I really love this issue because the “people trapped in a strange room” is a smart device to apply to comics, and there’s no better characters to fill that room with than a gang of superpowered assholes.
MS: I’m glad that locked room scene worked for someone but it was DOA for me. A locked room drama is such rich territory for a writer and actor to explore their craft and really show what they’re capable of. I don’t feel like Gail Simone and Ken Lashley really seized on that opportunity that they were given. The art becomes chaotic rather than emotive when it comes to the character acting and the dialogue is tin-eared at best and grating at worst as characters speak as stereotypes. The locked room is perfect for film and the stage but it needs a lot of work to make it compelling in comic form. And I just don’t feel like this team put in the work.
MB: Yeah, the locked room isn’t a bad idea, but the dialogue amongst the prisoners wasn’t very effective. How many times do we have to hear Catman talk about how he doesn’t like being confined? We get it. Repeated motifs like that can work in longer pieces (like movies) as recurring character traits, like how Marty McFly hates being called “chicken” in Back to the Future or Riggs being called “crazy” in the Lethal Weapon movies, but three or four times in a single issue just became annoying and seemed like lazy writing to me. I can see what they were going for, but this creative team missed the mark.
JS: I think the reason for so much Catman is because this is a wholly new version of the character and I believe Simone is trying to ram that home. Admittedly, it took me awhile to realize this wasn’t the wealthy, big game hunter Blake of previous years. Though, I’ll admit the “Catman is hot” thread was very tiresome. That’s an inside joke between Simone and her fans that mainly failed.
I agree the art has big issues to work out in the art department but I thought the dialogue was just fine. A little rushed and truncated but there was plenty there to get an idea of all six (seven?) personalities and how they might mesh. When Catman catches a glimpse of the Ventriloquist’s undercarriage I couldn’t help but smile at Simone’s trademark sick humor. That’s in no way stereotypical dialogue to me.
MB: Part of my problems may lie in the fact that I didn’t read the first iteration of the book so I’m missing many of the nuances that returning fans of the series might catch onto. That poses a problem for me because it’s a new series. I should be able to start from this #1 and not miss things. I’m all for having Easter eggs as a treat for returning readers, but eh. I dunno. It still needs to work by itself. The story has potential. That was proven by the cult following that the first book got. It seems like Simone was trying too hard with this one. I’m going to have to give this a 2/5.