Twenty-two pages fills up fast. There’s no denying that. Action sequences often eat up huge chunks of a book, and you can only fit so much dialogue on the page before it becomes cluttered, not to mention how much of the probably excellent art you’ll be covering up by doing so. So, understandably, most writers will have their stories run in arcs, getting 44, 66, 88, etc… pages to tell it. It’s not hard to see why, but the tendency to keep expanding the story is part of what makes it so rewarding when you come across a single issue that manages to not only exemplify what it is you so love about the book, but that manages to do so with an impressive economy of storytelling. One Shot is meant to take a close look at why those issues work as well as they do, the way they do.
While Nicola Scott takes a few issues off to work with Greg Rucka on Blackest Night: Wonder Woman, Gail Simone keeps pushing forward with one of the best mainstream comics on the shelves today, joined now by Peter Nguyen on art. Reintroducing one of Simone’s favorite characters, Black Alice, Secret Six #16 deals with her attempts to join the team, willing to make a little money at any cost – an idea that intrigues the greedy, underpowered team.
Nguyen does fine fill-in work here. If he doesn’t fill Scott’s rather impressive shoes completely, he at least proves himself a good choice to follow her, managing to successfully emulate her style without resorting to mimicry. From the father’s fear and terror early in the issue to the fight at the strip club, Nguyen illustrates a fair amount of diversity with the issue. While Scott’s absence is felt, of course, Nguyen proves to be an able replacement.
This is a fairly slight issue, but then, Secret Six has always been more about the characters than plotting, and this one had a number of good character moments. It also had supervillain-themed strippers, torture, a little superpowered violence, some more strippers, and the reintroduction of Scandal’s new girlfriend, Liana. With Black Alice on the team, things are sure to go downhill quickly, and, as always, the worse off things are for the Six, the more entertaining things are for us.
– Cal Cleary
Secret Six #15
Gail Simone has always had a talent for writing fast-paced action punctuated with brief character moments and more black humor than most writers would be comfortable with, and Secret Six is the book that lets her and artist Nicola Scott get really filthy as they take a team of supremely broken individuals through the wringer, with few pretensions of good and evil in the traditional sense. “The Depths”, the book’s current 5-part arc, tears the team apart with ruthless efficiency, but the marvel of what would otherwise be a relentlessly grim arc is how heart-wrenchingly believable it is… and how much fun.
Secret Six #13 follows the now-split team in two directions. As Catman, Ragdoll and Deadshot stay faithful to the mission and learn more and more about the island’s purpose, they’re also tasked with hunting down their renegade teammates. Scandal Savage, Bane, Artemis, and a still-recovering Jeanette, meanwhile, decide to take the island’s security forces on in a bid to save the enslaved Amazonian prisoners.
With all that action, it may come as a surprise, then, that the book has a number of the very brief moments at which Simone excels to familiarize us with these characters. From Bane’s admiration at the precision of the prison to the single panel daydream of a bored Deadshot, the book revels in just how broken these characters are without asking for pity or compassion.
Scott contributes more than her fair share, meeting every single one of Simone’s twisted demands with what I can only imagine as a malicious sort of glee. The action sequences in the issue, though brief, are quick and gorgeous, with a keen eyes for setting up surprisingly natural panels and sequences that highlight just how dangerous, and how cool, these characters are. She also manages to illustrate a wide cast of characters, a number of different settings, and even a sepia flashback to Scandal’s past with equal skill.
Though the book is far from over, Secret Six is shaping up to be Simone’s masterpiece. Even by the high standards to which the book is generally held here, however, Secret Six #13 was an fun, exciting, downright excellent issue of comics. Along with Scott, Simone seems to be well on her way to crafting a cool, bloody modern classic.
– Cal Cleary