When you’re making a team-up book, one of the big things that’s going to draw people in is that eternal question: “Who’s on the team?” After all, what’s going to get people to buy the book like the big name heroes? Secret Six’s biggest name is Deadshot in the first arc, with Mad Hatter added in the second. And yet it easily ranks as one of the best modern comics I’ve read in a while.
Villains United is a bit on the rougher edge of things. I blame part of this on the fact that it’s part of the Countdown to Infinite Crisis, and even having read Infinite Crisis, I…still don’t know what this book had to do with it. It feels like DC had just decided they needed a book showing the villains getting together their evil Society. And then Gail Simone put in the Secret Six, supervillains that have decided not to join the Society, and are instead working for the mysterious Mockingbird, mainly against their will. The team is made up of Catman, Deadshot, Cheshire, Scandal, Ragdoll, and Parademon. Before I read the book, I would’ve known Deadshot from the Gotham Knight animated movie and Catman from…well, some silly 60s Batman covers. After reading it, I feel like I know these characters as well as I know any classic character. They’re given such depth and such personality. The fact that they’re recruited against their will means that, when they break into a fight, you know why they have.
Six Degrees of Devastation is the first real volume of the Secret Six series, and if it weren’t for the fact that Villains United sets up several plot points, I would really recommend starting here. The plot involves an assassination attempt on the “heroes”, leading them to find out who’s trying to kill them and why. It really reminds me of a brainy action movie put in comic form. You get some great fight scenes, but you also get a good story and some humor. I also love how this book could’ve been set completely out of the DC Universe. Too often I’ve seen superhero comics get so ingrained in the fact that comic readers are going to be the ones reading it, that they forget that not everybody is going to know every single event that happened in the universe. It’s a cast of C-list characters that exist in their own bubble, which gives Gail Simone all the more time to develop them as she wants them, not as characters with long histories the reader needs to know to understand them.
Both volumes are great, entertaining reads. Secret Six was not one of the books to survive DC’s reboot, but Gail Simone seems pretty pleased with what she’s created, saying that she was lucky to get a book starring Catman that lasted as long as it did. If DC ever wanted to make a solo book starring Catman, I’d definitely read it after this.