Secret Six #2 “Down the Rabbit Hole”
Written by Gail Simone
Pencils by Ken Lashley
Inks by Ken Lashley and Drew Geraci
Colors by Jason Wright

After quite a bit of waiting, we finally get the second installment of Secret Six! I’m not sure why there were such drastic delays, but I really hope it doesn’t weigh too heavily on sales. I also hope it’s not a sign of things to come… Regardless, more than a month after the issue was supposed to be released, I can’t help but think, “It’s better late, than never.” So, was this issue worth the wait? That’s debatable.

I couldn’t remember too many details from the debut, and I felt the need to re-read that before jumping into the second issue – especially since the launch of this series contained so much exposition. Honestly, I’m really glad I picked it up again. I found that I enjoyed the first issue a little more on the second reading than I did initially. Before I explain this in more detail though, I want to pause and note that in my opinion, this is a sign of a good writer! As a reader or viewer, if you can read or watch something more than once, and you enjoy it more than you did the first time, then the writer did a damn good job at crafting their story and characters. Kudos Simone! At times, I have a tendency to get lost in a story, and my mind begins to wander or jump ahead as I begin to piece plots together to determine what is happening or will happen. This, at times, results in me focusing too heavily on aspects that don’t matter, rather than focusing on details I really should be paying more attention to. I was guilty of doing this with the first issue of Secret Six. So as I re-read Catman’s introduction, how he served as a catalyst to introduce us to this new team, their underwater prison, and this mystery “secret,” everything just felt more cohesive, and fluid, and purposeful. All of which aided my journey throughout this issue.

“Down the Rabbit Hole” is essentially broken down into two stories: the team’s current situation as they work to understand and free themselves from their confinement, and a glimpse into Catman’s life prior to these events. Let’s start with what we already know – our current situation. These six (er… seven?) individuals have been brought together in a giant holding chamber that’s shaped like a coffin, which has been placed at the bottom of the ocean. Someone with a lot of connections and a lot of money is responsible for this, and they’re ultimately looking for some information; some secret that one of these individuals, or perhaps all of them collectively, know. For the group, it’s a mystery within a mystery as none of them are sure how they are connected, or what this “secret” is… but they better figure something out fast because one of them is about to be killed.

We get a better glimpse into who these characters are as Simone crafts individuality into each of them within a short amount of time. Although I’m a huge fan of Strix (I especially loved her offer to show “mercy” to Catman at one point in this issue) and Black Alice, it’s Shauna Belzer that really stands out here from a supporting standpoint. Catman is losing it due to being trapped in a confined space, and the team is split between trying to calm him and figuring out the secret or a way to escape. Naturally, Catman’s peaking rage is only going to set off the other personalities, and the person it impacts the most is Shauna Belzer… along with her bat-shit-crazy delusions. This woman is a loon! And I loved every second of it!

As I was reading, I kept hoping she would chime in with some form of crazy… and she never failed. I know a lot of readers weren’t fond of her being the new Ventriloquist, but I’ve found it to be a change for the better. She’s so crazy that she’s entertaining, but she’s also super scary because of how delusional and obsessive she is. The one concern I’ve had since her debut in Batgirl was Ferdie. It bothered me that the dummy was – as I surmised at the time – possessed by some type of demonic spirit that allowed him to walk and talk… and kill people. Turns out, I was wrong. Shauna is, in fact, pretty gifted, and she’s way more powerful than I think any of us thought… It was an aspect to her that I wasn’t expecting, but won’t mind seeing more of. Now, if only we could get Simone to write a really long scene between Belzer and Ragdoll with them discussing twistedly inappropriate and morbid things with each other… Gail Simone, if you’re reading this, please make that happen. Even if it’s just something fun to post on a Tumblr somewhere…

As Wells tries to keep everyone in check, Catman manages some clarity and devises a possible plan to free everyone with the assistance of Shauna and Porcelain. I thought that the “secret” that keeps being mentioned was really going to be a device to showcase the hidden ability each team member has to justify their unification… but considering how this issue ends, I don’t think that’s the case. We ultimately answer some questions, discover new questions, while getting solid action to help drive the momentum of this issue.

It’s the glimpse into Catman’s past that really grounds this issue though. If the suspense, mystery, and well written ensemble aren’t enough to sell you on this book, then Simone’s re-telling of a traumatic and defining moment in Catman’s life will. Roughly a year and half before Catman is kidnapped and placed in this underwater coffin, he was kidnapped and held in captivity for a full year. Here’s where it gets a little twisted… The whole thing was an experiment. There are numerous parallels between his experience then, and what he’s going through now, that I can’t help but wonder if they’re connected.

To drive the mystery even further, much like his current situation, we don’t know who is behind it or why they’re doing it. We know he was held captive for an experiment, but we don’t know what that experiment is. Blake’s will to live through each day is fascinating though, and the key to his happiness while in captivity is a great reveal. It really humanizes him as a person, and completely justifies his reaction to certain situations. Everything in this issue just adds more depth, texture, and understanding to what is going on here, but I’m somewhat expecting Simone to flip us on our heads with a twist at any moment.

Before you continue reading, be warned that there are spoilers below!

 

The Art: I feel like I’ve settled into Lashley’s art a little more this time around. He has a very unique style that is gritty and heavy on shadowing. It honestly reminds me more of a sketch. I initially felt that his art was messy, but not so much here. This issue, while still textured, appears to be a little cleaner and more “friendly” to a broader audience. As always, you can check out some of the internal art in the spoiler tag below.

Spoiler

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The Good:  The team dynamic. My God, Simone writes a damn good ensemble! I feel like characters and stories really succeed when there are strong counterparts to tie from and feed off of. These characters work so well together, and yet are such a random grouping. We’re only two issues in, but I’m desperately waiting to learn more about the rest of the team.

Catman’s captivity. Between everything Blake went through: his torture, his punishment, the assistant who helps him, the gift of the kitten, the reveal of the assistant’s death… It just made this whole plot sad, and disturbing, and confusing, and heart-warming, and mysterious all at the same time. It was a complete range of emotions without feeling schizophrenic. And the guy behind Blake’s captivity was incredibly creepy and sadistic – his lack of remorse for his actions making me hope that he’s also behind this underwater coffin. And speaking of “this guy”… Did anyone else think, “Oh my God! Is this the Joker?” on more than one occasion? The personality seems to line up pretty closely, and… well… there’s this:

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I really hope the reveal of this character plays heavily into the arc, because I’m completely sold on it.

The Bad:  The main problem I have with this issue is the delay. But at the root of it, it isn’t really the delay itself that bothered me. I can’t help but feel like there was quite a bit of rewriting that took place with this issue. I thought the team was going to stay confined within this coffin a little while longer, but they don’t. They escape before the end of the issue, and it all feels a little rushed… Rushed in a way that I’m concerned Simone had a story in mind, and she is either being forced to react to a change, or had an idea that was originally shot down, but has now been given the green light due to DC’s “climate change” concerning good stories vs continuity. I’m going to trust her abilities and hope for the best.

Another, very minor, issue I had was Shauna Belzer. I know, I know… I just spent a chunk of my review praising her, so what is there to complain about? My issue with her is simply her perception of age. In Batgirl, Shauna was really young. Here, she reminds me more of a woman in her late 30’s or early 40’s that has a delusional recollection of a career she never had… Again, it’s small, but worth noting.

 

Recommended if:

  • You were a fan of Simone’s run prior to the New 52.
  • You want to learn more about this team, why they’re together, and how they got here.
  • Suicide Squad isn’t delivering what you want or need from a book that focuses on villains.

 

Overall: This is a nice installment that builds on its previous issue, and does a lot to progress the story while opening up new questions. Was it worth the wait? I would say yes! Simone is a masterclass at writing interesting characters and ensembles, and she’s only getting better.

 

SCORE: 8.5/ 10