Reading Comic Books Out of Order #6 — “Secret Six: Unhinged”

secret sixI’m going to come right out and preface this post by saying that this might be my favourite series since beginning “Comic Books Out of Order.”

The series itself revolves around a group of mercenaries who will do whatever, so long as they’re paid handsomely. In the beginning of the book we are introduced first to Junior, a villain who we don’t see in full until much later. All we know right away is that Junior is horribly fearsome and apparently even scares criminals in Arkham Asylum. Then we switch to Thomas Blake (Catman) and Floyd Lawton (Deadshot), as Blake talks about the possibility of him “going straight.”

The scene is actually pretty hilarious—they’re talking casually as armed men come into the convenience store they’re in and try to rob it. For several panels, they continue the course of their conversation until Floyd finally chides the would-be robbers on their poor skills and kicks the ever-loving crap out of them. This convenience store scene alternates with a scene involving Scandal Savage (the bastard child of Vandal Savage) stressing out over the death of her girlfriend and member of the Secret Six, who I eventually learn went by the name Knockout. Ragdoll (a very fitting name when you look at the guy) tries to console her, as does Bane, to little avail.

Floyd and Thomas return to their base, which seems to be either a mansion or a castle, and Scandal tells them about the mission they’ve just accepted. They’re to break a villain named Tarantula out of prison and return her and a card she’s carrying to their benefactor, whose identity they don’t know.

It seems like a simple enough mission, but we get some early foreshadowing when Huntress calls Thomas, telling him to not take the mission, or they’ll all be killed. Batman agrees, and Blake and he end up in quite the fistfight.

As it turns out, the card is nothing ordinary. It’s a “get out of hell free card,” and it does exactly what is says. Every person in the world would want to get their hands on that. It doesn’t help that Junior wants the card, and puts a $10 million bounty on the head of every member of the Secret Six.

There are plenty of twists and turns along the way. but I don’t want to give everything away, because this book is incredible.

Mostly what I love are the characters themselves. The introduction to the book is helpful, as Paul Cornell touches on the moral grayness of these characters—they’re not presented explicitly as heroes or villains, just a group of people who (begrudgingly) care about each other. I first realized who much I love Floyd Lawton as a character when I watched “Task Force X,” an excellent episode of Justice League Unlimited. Floyd is a smug bastard, but beneath the mask he cares about his teammates. Ragdoll’s perverse and shameless personality adds hilarity to nearly every scene he’s in. Bane, believe it or not, is the kindest of the bunch and starts to act like a father figure for Scandal.

And then there’s the writing itself. Cornell alludes to this divine panel as one of his favourite panels ever (please forgive my horrible scanning skills):

secret six panelThe pure look of betrayal on the shark’s face is pretty priceless, particularly because there were so many other villains to take out, and Catman chose the most predatory-looking.

My comic-book-guru-friend said that this series is a crap shoot to recommend, because it’s a series about very, very messed-up and damaged people, But it’s for precisely this reason that Secret Six is so compelling. Give me this over the 50,000th iteration of Batman.

 

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One thought on “Reading Comic Books Out of Order #6 — “Secret Six: Unhinged”

  1. Pingback: Reading Comic Books Out of Order #8 — “Suicide Squad: From the Ashes” | Michael Writes

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