Secret Six #3 “The Nine Levels of Suburbia”
Written by Gail Simone
Art by Dale Eaglesham
Colors by Jason Wright
I’m torn on how I feel about this issue. Very torn. It isn’t bad. Let me just put that out there. In no way do I think this issue is bad! Even in its weakest moments, this book is good… My indifference towards this issue has more to do with the delays this title faced leading up to this point. Secret Six launched with a two-part story that brought these misfits together, placed them in a giant coffin at the bottom of the sea, and forced them two escape. Both of those issues were entrenched in mystery: Who are these people? How did they get here? Who put them here? What is the secret?… It was a fantastic start that built momentum nicely… or at least it should have. But there were delays between the first issue and the second, then additional delays between issues two and three – which just happened to span a couple of months thanks to Convergence. So what this book needed, more than anything, was to regain that momentum to get back on track… and it didn’t.
A number of readers expressed hesitation in adding this title to their rotation because of the delays, and I can’t blame them. Because of that, the creative team had unfortunately worked their way into a position where they needed to deliver a top-notch, fast-paced, attention grabbing issue… Instead, we got a Wes Anderson take on the Secret Six. If you’re familiar with Wes Anderson’s film work, and you read this issue, then you can most likely understand my reference since most of the characters here are a little… odd. If you have no clue who Wes Anderson is, then this completely went over your head. I, personally, am a fan of Wes Anderson and this book, so let me clarify again. This isn’t bad, the timing just felt off!
Simone does something in this issue that not a lot of writers take the time to do anymore – she focuses on the characters more so than just driving the arc. I love her for this! As a writer, I think you can have the best plot in the world, but if you don’t have strong characters and character moments to anchor the plot, then all you’ll ever achieve is “good.” So Simone delivers a snapshot of each of the characters by quilting together multiple mini-stories… And they’re definitely some interestingly quirky characters.
As expected, the team is in hiding after escaping Mockingbird. They’ve tucked themselves away in Big Shot’s house. What follows, is a glimpse into each of the character’s day, providing more insight into each one of them. And if there’s one thing that’s certain, it’s that this is one interesting group. If there’s one thing that this issue highlighted, it’s the strengths and weaknesses of the roster. Some characters are just way more interesting and relatable than the others.
Three of the characters easily stand out above the rest: Catman, Strix, and Black Alice. Catman is probably the most obvious because he’s the most developed of all the characters, and his quirks aren’t nearly as intense. His feature in this issue is one of the weaker ones though (at least the first half), but he’s redeemed when we circle back to his story at the end of the issue. If there’s one thing that shines through for Catman, it’s how compassionate the character is. He also has a really nice moment with Strix, which was probably my favorite of the entire issue. We get a glimpse of just how damaged Strix is, and Catman is pretty spectacular in how he responds. I’m looking forward to seeing how the relationship between these two develops. There could be a great brother/sister type of bonding here that would make an amazing read.
Other than that, there was a nice moment between Black Alice and Big Shot. While I think Big Shot is still an extremely awkward character, Simone does a really good job of showing a different side of him here. He’s easily the gruffest of all the characters, but it turns out he’s the most domesticated as well. Ironically, it becomes a running joke throughout the issue as he’s constantly commenting on things such as his mother’s prize winning rose bush. Oh, and the cover of this issue… There’s a great joke early in the issue that ties to it that made me laugh out loud.
The two weak links for me are Porcelain and the Ventriloquist. Porcelain hasn’t had much of a chance to show her personality, and doesn’t really get much of a chance her either, except for the fact that there are certain things she takes pretty personally – for instance, being called a freak. I previously had suspicions that this was the case, but it was confirmed in this issue – Porcelain is a transgender woman. So, that should add some interesting layers to the character later on as we get to know her better. Unfortunately, I now think that the Ventriloquist is a waste of space. This character has been so inconsistently written, and at this point, she’s doing nothing for me. I’d be ok with it if she bit the bullet… Sorry Gail.
What I did enjoy, was the blatant repetition of having members of the team talk to one another user their code name, then correcting themselves by stating the character’s actual name. It’s simple, but a powerful statement. It shows worth. And the only character that didn’t have this happen to them (or at least I didn’t catch it), was Shauna, the Ventriloquist… Through all of this, the story does progress a little. We get to see that the team is becoming a family in some ways, and as with life, they are each naturally drawn to another member of the team. We also learn that one of the members is betraying the team, and actually works for Mockingbird… who is also revealed in this issue, and just happens to be <WHAT IS THE SECRET?>
The Art: We have a new artist in Dale Eaglesham. Overall, I think I prefer his art for this book. It fits the left-of-center personalities of the characters more appropriately. There are times where it looks a little cartoony – the off duty officer with his dog; the Ventriloquist – and I’m not as fond of those moments. But there are many panels that look incredible! And I love the way Eaglesham draws eyes! The introduction to each character’s feature contains a title and a close-up of their eyes (windows of the soul people), and each and every time it’s absolutely stunning!
- You want to get to know the team a little more intimately.
- You need a little crazy in your life.
- You’ve had weird sex on a couch.
Overall: Secret Six makes its return from hibernation with an interesting choice of direction. Simone seems to be embracing the crazy with this team, and she waves the diversity flag with enthusiasm here. While I’m concerned that this won’t resonate as strongly with a majority of readers, I thought it was a damn fine issue.
SCORE: 7/ 10