Gail Simone’s run on Secret Six prior to the New 52 launch three years ago isn’t something that I’ve had much experience with. In fact, the only such experience is a read of the first volume of the series that I did last year and the story and art were pretty decent. Though I suppose that I should give that more credit since I came to really like the characters of Catman and Ragdoll in particular, thanks to some of their cameos in other Gail Simone titles, like the pre-52 Birds of Prey or the New 52 Batgirl, respectively for both characters.
This week saw the release of the New 52 Secret Six with a debut issue that sees Gail introduce us to this new and revamped team that still seems to be headed by none other than Thomas Blake, Catman himself. The issue has a very strong sense of direction and also a certain menace to it that I found very compelling and it also happens to be quite unlike Gail’s usual stories, though that’s not a point against it. And the art by Ken Lashley, Drew Geraci and Jason Wright also stands out as something impressive, more since it is very different from the typical New 52 style.
Thomas Blake aka Catman is our primary POV character in this issue, as he is the first one that we are introduced to and the one we follow for the rest of the issue. As a protagonist of this new series, Thomas Blake is a perfect fit, especially since the New 52 version is making his first debut of the relaunch here, if I’m not mistaken. In essence, the issue is packed to the brim with some fantastic characters and a fantastic story, which hearken to some of Gail’s best work on Batgirl for the New 52, or even the Birds of Prey before the big relaunch in 2011.
The best thing about the issue are definitely the characters. We have a truly fantastic line-up of villains in this issue, and though we get to learn who all they are, Gail also maintains a certain detachment that works well in the issue’s favour and she tells a great story of villains thrown together for a common purpose and forced to fight amongst themselves for the smallest of advantages. It creates some really interesting relationships and also allows the reader to really understand the different characters. And given the diversity, and some of Gail’s trademarks, there are both serious and clown-y characters in here, which I loved.
When you have great characters, that also means that you have some great dialogue. It won’t always be the best that it could be, but then it doesn’t need to be. It just needs to fit the character in question, and that’s something that Gail is seriously good at. I mean, you just need to read Catman’s various bits of dialogue in this issue to really get to understand him, or the nutty female character whose name is revealed towards the end and makes for some great drama within the context of the story that Gail is revealing here.
And this brings us to the story itself. We start off with Catman, who is being brought in by some unnamed and mysterious organization which then puts him in a locked room with five other people, all of whom are gifted by superpowers in some way, or are just plain nutty in the insane kind of way. That’s what I really loved about the issue. They are all villains of course, and Gail’s writing adds a lot of colour to them with respect to who they are and what they are doing inside that locked room.
Ken Lashley is the artist here with him and Drew Geraci on inks, Jason Wright on colours and Carlos M. Mangual on letters with Dale Eaglesham and Jason on the mind-blowingly-awesome cover. Ken’s pencils are very different from the main New 52 art style, which is a big positive for this series going forward. It is quirky and weird, which fits well with the kind of story that Gail is telling and reflective of the kind of characters that she is telling said story about. Add to that the (often) heavy inks, and you have an art style that perfectly matches the tone and mood of the story without taking anything away from that.
I think this issue is a good start for the series, and I’m looking forward to the next installment. And it is so, so different from DC’s other supervillain team-up, New Suicide Squad!!