It’s no secret that I love this book. Last issue was a bit lackluster compared to the 8 issues which preceded it. And yet, it still topped my list for the best comics in May. (It also ranked on Seventh Soldier’s list.) We all agreed that while it wasn’t the best issue of the series, it was still a great read.
This issue is the first part of the “Depths” storyline. And to my mind, it is a return to greatness after a minor stumble last issue. I loved every page of this book. Obviously, being the first issue in a multi-part story, this issue is mostly set-up. But Simone seems to excel at set-up issues for Secret Six. This may be the best issue since the first one.
As the story begins, we’re introduced to the villains. They are slavers running some kind of underground mine. When one of the slaves refuses to work, the leader of the slavers breaks her spirit with a calm brutality that is simply chilling. In five pages, Simone establishes complete personalities for two of the villains and their victim. (The third villain is mysteriously silent the entire time. So, while we don’t learn a lot about her, we are definitely intrigued.)
Once we’ve met the villains of the story, we check in on Bane. Appropriately, Bane is not doing so hot. In the first 9 issues of this series, Bane has really been put through the paces. Tortured to the brink of death. And finally succumbing to Venom in an effort to save the life of Scandal Savage – of whom Bane is strangely protective. It seems that Bane is still juicing after his Venom relapse. And it is up to Scandal to help him kick the habit.
In the world of the Secret Six, we experience a lot of depravity. (Most of it coming from Deadshot or the hysterical Ragdoll.) But the scenes between Scandal and Bane are always touching and, dare I say it, beautiful. Their relationship is unconventional to say the least. It’s almost unspoken and completely undefined. Scandal has no interest in a romantic relationship with a man and Bane is fully aware of this. And yet, there is a tenderness between them that is undeniable. If it weren’t for these glimpses of humanity, the book could easily turn into the kind of revolting exploitation other writers have been cashing in on.
(I’m looking at you Mark Millar!)
Before I move on, I am positively giddy at the thought of Bane busting up this slave ring. Simone has really put Bane to good use in this book (something DC has stuggled with for the better part of a decade). And as a former prisoner himself, you just know he’s going to rip through the joint with the same ferocity we saw last issue. Personally, I can’t wait.
From Bane and Scandal, we move on to another odd couple, Deadshot and Jeanette. Both are thoroughly dispicable characters that Simone manages to portray as deliciously wicked. Jeanette has arranged a meeting with the team’s newest prospective client. And the setting is a place of special significance to her. When she explains to Deadshot that it is the location where she killed her first husband, it is nearly romantic. At least in her mind it is.
The twisted courtship is interrupted by the arrival of the slavers from the first scene. And once again, Simone does a great job with the characterizations. These guys take pride in the tradition of their occupation. They speak passionately about the history of great empires being built on the backs of slaves. It’s reprehensible. But you get a very clear image of who we are dealing with. And so does Deadshot, who has no problem agreeing to take the job anyway.
The meeting ends with a tantalizing mystery that is sure to be explored for the rest of the story arc. The slavers work for a mystery employer named… Mockingb ird. Sound familiar? In Simone’s first Secret Six mini-series, Lex Luthor formed the team under the same identity. It’s doubtful we’re dealing with the same Mockingbird here. But you can bet the connection won’t be a good thing for the Six.
Ofcourse when the mission begins all hell breaks loose. That’s what happens in the Secret Six. Deadshot makes a decision that perfectly captures his true nature. And a guest star shows up who will be no surprise to readers of the solicitations for coming months. All in all, the pieces are in place for what promises to be a rip-roaring adventure.