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Reviews

October 19, 2008

Well for me over the last two months there has only been one real head and shoulders comic that I’d like to review, Be warned total spoilers ahead

As this issue opens, we see a man named Shelton being taken by two shady looking characters in plaid suits  into a sleazy sex club in an unidentified red light district.  Shelton is uncomfortable, begging for help, but the identical twin thugs try to talk him into calming down.  One of them says that “the boss” isn’t all that frightening, and how he says nice things about Mr. Shelton all the time.  He turns to his brother for backup, but the other man states, “I’ll be honest…  When he talks I’m mainly trying to figure some way not to soil myself.  I’m doin’ the therapy work for it, but there it is.”  HA!  Shelton is led into a dark, bare room, with only a wooden crate on the floor.  A voice emanates from the box…  “Know who I am?”  Shelton nervously says that he does, and the voice asks why Shelton helped to steal from him.  Shelton babbles that he knows he shouldn’t steal from the boss (called “Junior”) and the hidden boss agrees, and then asks him a horrible question.  “You have wife, daughters.  They die, or you die.  They die or you die.”  Shelton screams to kill his family instead, and Junior drags him bodily into the crate, hissing “That is choice everyone makes.”  That… was creepy.

Somewhere else, an expensive car races through darkness, as Floyd Lawton and Thomas Blake go somewhere at ridiculous speed.  Blake xplains that something bad happened in Africa, and we see a flashback of the Catman in action.  “Lot of men died ugly, and were left to rot.  And worse.”  Lawton snorts, and almost laughs.  “I have it on good authority that guys die all the time.  You asking me to believe you care?”  Blake quietly answers, “No.  I’m saying I DON’T care.  I’m saying I’d do it again.”  As Catman contemplates retiring  they stop by a tiny convenience store, engrossed in conversation, and completely miss the gang of thugs trying to rob the place.  Blak explains that life feels like something’s missing in his life, and Deadshot picks out ice cream.  A skinhead pops up, puts a gun to Lawton’s head and screams for them to put their hands up.  “You ain’t the contemplative type, Blake,” replies Deadshot.  Heh.  We are treated to a brief shot of Junior’s lackeys coming in to clean up their boss’s mess, and he replies that he has the information they need.  “Know who is transporting her.  Six individuals, not serious threat.”  Uh oh…

Back at the grocery, Floyd and Thomas continue talking, and Deadshot suddenly realizes.  “It’s that girl!  That Huntress broad.”  The best part is watching the skinheads scream at them, as the two men calmly have their discussion about chicks and ennui with guns to their heads.  Lawton continues with his Huntress theory, explaining that “It’s the closest thing you can get to doin’ it with Batman.  Hold that thought.”  Deadshot whirls, grabs the gun, and breaks the thug’s nose with his elbow.  “You don’t respect ME, fine.  But you will $&@$ing well respect the GUN.”  Floyd shows the idiots how it’s done, explaining as HE robs the grocer, taking all the cash  and an armload of smokes  and Deadshot and Catman prepare to leave.  Catman feels obligated to step in and save the day, though, and rips the thugs nearly to pieces with his claws.  “Yep.  Guess the Justice Legaue oughtta be callin’ any day now, General Glory,” replies Deadshot from the door.

Back at their lair, the House of Secrets, Scandal continues trying to drink herself to death, only to find that Ragdoll has arranged for a birthday party for her.  A stripper pops out of a cake dressed as her dead lover, and Scandal’s drunken mind hallucinates as she recieves a pretty awkward lapdance.  She imagines Knockout talking to her, and wonders how.  “Because you’re stupid drunk, silly…  Or, perhaps it’s because I am a New God and death alone cannot extinguish what burns within me.  Or perhaps I am a woman in love.”  Scandal finally starts to sober up, pushing the stripper away.  “She’s gonna kill us all,” says Deadshot.  “Not me,” replies Catman.  “I brought the ice cream.”  Ha!  Scandal smiles at her idiot partners, shakes off her stupor, and tells them that she has a mission.  The Six  are to transport the Tarantula, but the mission is a bit funny.  Just as she points this out, Catman gets a call from the Huntress ( warning him to not take the gig.  She warns him that the Six are dead if they cross swords with Junior, and hangs up.  Speaking to the darkness, Huntress explains how much she hates doing what she just did.  “A bloodbath is coming, Huntress,” replies The Batman from the shadows.  “None of us are getting out of this with clean hands.  Least of all, Thomas Blake.”

Part Two

And Secret Six #2 delivers on every level.  Beyond the intrigue and Mad, Mad, Mad World-esque story arc, Gail tells an engaging story on every single page.  Whether it’s Bane, Ragdoll, and Deadshot talking about Scandal’s love life , or Batman and Catman discussing the ingredients of Mexican food while duking it out on the rooftops of Gotham City, Gail can write dialogue that has you both on the edge of your seat, and rolling on the floor.

Her Batman is one of the most human I’ve seen in a while.  Instead of nabbing Catman, and putting him away, he’d rather pay the Secret Six to not do the job they’ve been hired to do.  Coming out and saying he cares for everyone regardless if they are a homicidal maniac or friend is about as close as we are going to get to seeing a Batman who is in touch with himself.

It is interesting that Simone pairs Batman against Catman instead of Bane – or maybe it’s not, considering the other Cat in Batman’s life is currently on a hospital table with a big hole in her chest.  Regardless, Tom Blake’s bravado plays perfectly against Batman’s no nonsense “don’t make me kick your ass” attitude.  And their fight isn’t too bad either, ultimately ending in a tie, because Catman let Batman get a few hits in.And lets not forget that Catman was created way back in the 60’s as the perfect foil for Batman, so all in all the fight that most of us sixers have been waiting for was actually very well paced and entertaining

The rest of the Six don’t fare as well as Catman, as they end up in a spot of trouble trying to break the Tarantula out of Alcatraz. I’ve come to appreciate the current incarnation of Bane, and like his screwed up philosophy on life, even if it means giving the opponent exactly what they need (in their ornament-things).  Scandal is the tragic character in the group, and I have a feeling she’s going to get out of her funk before the story reaches its conclusion. Deadshot, well, he’s just this guy…

By far the creepiest character is Ragdoll.  This is one messed up mo’fo’, and in Gail’s hands he moves from homicidal looney to scary “put the lotion in the basket” territory.  While I can’t wait to see what comes out of his mouth next, I’m also cringing every time I see the specialized Ragdoll font because I know it is giving me another glimpse into the mind of madness. If you get the chance head over to newsarama and listen to the interview with Gail (and forgive the interviewer for saying how much he loves the series and not spotting that the girl in green isn’t enchantress but is in fact cheshire doh!!!!)
As I mentioned earlier, there is a very Mad, Mad, Mad World vibe to this arc, but it is probably a more accurate homage to Cannonball Run as the Six now have to get their prisoner from one coast to the other, anyway they can, while avoiding a whole army of villains hell bent on killing them, thanks to the war cry of some dude under a hood.  At the moment I have no idea who the mysterious Junior is, but I have a feeling when he is finally unmasked, we’ll all go “wha-huh?  I never expected that.

The art by Nicola Scott is, once again, out of the ballpark.

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