In the latest edition of Comics to Read Before You Die, Jessie Robertson looks at Secret Six Unhinged…
Thugs, Killers, Maniacs….and they’re the good guys!
Gail Simone – writer
Nicola Scott- penciller
Doug Hazlewood- inker
Rodney Ramos, Pete Woods, Javi Pina- add. art
Jason Wright- colorist
Swands, Travis Lanham, Sal Cipriano, Rob Clark jr- letterers
I heard over and over again that this was book was one of those hidden gems that if you missed it when it came out, you had to find it. So I tracked it down. What I found when reading this book was it could have been any low sales, oft-ignored book full of characters you probably don’t know, doing things that aren’t all that interesting to you because you’re not invested in these people. It could have been. But, its hooks grab you the moment the book starts. And instead of portraying this team of so-called losers as the only people who can save the planet as we know it, their stories are all about saving their own souls. It’s a simple beautiful, violent, sociopathic experience delving into Unhinged, and everything about the title rings true.
The true genius to this story is the main characters in the book, and the hook of the plot. It melded together so seamlessly, for some strange reason, I didn’t even pick up on it until reading it a second time. I believe Simone purposely chose characters that have no grand following, ones used as a punchline at one time or another, and tossed them together in this great recipe of chaos and mayhem.
I’ll give you the basic outline of what the story deals with. Scandal Savage, daughter of manipulative, eternal caveman Vandal Savage, is in charge of her own team of covert villains even the Suicide Squad doesn’t want any part of. Her girlfriend, Knockout, has just been killed and she’s in grief. A new mission is given to them to break a low-level criminal named Tarantula out of Bellevue prison because she has information on the location of a very important artifact. Her team tries to cheer her up by getting her a stripped jumping out of a cake dressed like Knockout. Yeah, we went there.
The rest of her team consist of Deadshot, the merciless assassin always looking for a spectacular way to leave this world, Catman, a big cat enthusiast looked at as a 4th rate Batman, Ragdoll, a tortured soul who can contort his body into shapes you’ve never seen before, and Bane, the man who broke Batman’s back, on his way to reformation. It’s a ragtag group and none of them seem to get along, the team nearly imploding on itself several times. Throw all this into a pot with a villain who operates out of a box and only communicates through telephone, some really, really bad cake, a hotel ran by a woman who’s been alive since the Plague, and a panel full of so many bad super villains, only the most truest fanboy of all could name all of them.
It’s a great caper story, as they are hunting for this artifact, and each of them could find a way to use it for themselves, so there’s alterior motives everywhere you look. But, they’re all looking for something redemptive inside themselves. If you’ve never heard of Catman, or have and just laughed, Simone brings him to life here, as a misunderstood man who used to hero worship Batman, but since has become embittered by his treatment towards him. There’s even a brief meeting between the two where Catman (Thomas Blake) is able to show the Dark Knight why he shouldn’t be laughed at. Deadshot is great in this book; he’s probably the breakout because he’s ruthless as ever, funny as hell, and always keeps you guessing. If you’re like me, Bane was about your least favorite Batman villain. He got the best of the Bat in the 90’s but no one had ever heard of him. And since then, he hadn’t done much to convince me I was wrong. Here, he’s done with the Venom, only using his intelligence and brawn, and he’s great playing den mother to a broken Scandal, even if it’s the last thing she wants.
This book is a must read, as there may not be a better opening to a team book anywhere (Okay, Astonishing X-Men fans, I know you’re looking at me.)
PS: Anyone else wish they could put these up on a shelf?