Secret Six #5 “Block Party”
Written by Gail Simone
Art by Dale Eaglesham and Tom Derenick
Colors by Jason Wright

Secret Six has been plagued with issues since its launch, and because of that, I’m sure many of you are wondering if we’ve finally moved past these problems. Well, rest assured, it looks like we don’t need to worry about any more delays, or weird releases that tell the story out of order… but I wouldn’t say we’re out of the woods with all of the problems, because now I’m starting to question the plot…

We’re only five issues into Secret Six, and so far, there have been two distinctly different tones in this book. The first two issues were dark and quite serious. We witness the capture of Catman, and learn of the torture he received for over a year while imprisoned, only to see him placed back in a form of imprisonment with five strangers. Six individuals brought together because of a secret that one or all of them know… unfortunately, none of them actually know what that secret is. Together, they manage to break out of their confinement, and learn that their enemy is an organization called Mockingbird.

The next two issues shifted to a lighter tone that embraced the oddity of these characters, and had fun playing with their insanity as they hid out at Big Shot’s house until they determined their next move. We also learned that Mockingbird is actually the Riddler, and that Big Shot, unbeknownst to the team, is working for him. The lighter tone was an enjoyable – and honestly a preferred change – but then it shifted back to being dark, then back to light again… It felt like riding a roller coaster that’s old and jerks you around at every twist and turn, but you ride it every time you have the chance to because it’s still thrilling despite the bumps and bruises. So if that roller coaster is fixed, then why doesn’t it feel as fun?

In issue 4 (which takes place before issue 3 as far as the story timeline is concerned), the team is followed to Big Shot’s house by assassins who work for Mockingbird – who we now know is the Riddler. But what’s more interesting, is who the three assassins are: Scandal Savage, Ragdoll, and Jeannette! (Umm… can we just replace three of the members that are currently part of the Secret Six, add these three, and just start over?)  During the altercation, Catman realizes that he recognizes and knows Scandal even though he’s never actually seen her – please remember this because it will be critical to my point later on. Not only does he know her, but she could quite possibly be the reason that Catman is still alive, and had the will to keep living back when he was incarcerated for a year. This revelation stops the teams from fighting, and it becomes clear that even though Scandal and gang work for Riddler, er Mockingbird, it’s not necessarily by choice. In fact, he’s a common enemy for all present parties. Alright! I find all of this interesting, and I’m on board!

Block Party, however, derails that excitement for me. While it continues with the lighter tone and inappropriate humor, I begin to question the direction this book is headed, and the explanations that are provided. First of all, I don’t understand why the six of them are still hiding out at Big Shot’s house… mainly because they’ve been found! What’s the point in hiding if your enemy knows exactly where you are? This is minor though, so I just run with the far-fetched concept that they actually enjoy each other’s company, and that, that is reason enough for them to stay together.

Then things move past the point of acceptable in my opinion. Big Shot is grilling for everyone and sends Catman up to his bedroom to get Black Alice. She’s still not doing well after getting attacked by Mockingbird, and Big Shot has been letting her sleep in his bed. After waking her, Catman notices a picture of a woman next to Big Shot’s bed. It’s the woman who attacked Catman and put him in an underwater coffin with the rest of the team. This same woman happens to be Big Shot’s wife… who is supposed to be dead. There’s an altercation between Catman and Big Shot, some great dialogue from the girls of the team, and then Simone leads into explaining the secret that started all of this… and that’s when the book drops again. Despite the fun, tongue-in-cheek dialogue, the intriguing sub-plot that’s developing with Scandal Savage, and my love for Strix’s love for the garden gnome, I can’t help but fear that this is only the beginning of this books drop in quality. Even after all of the delays and production issues, it wasn’t until this issue that I thought, “Oh no… this is bad. This is really bad.”

 

The rest of the review is going to contain spoilers. Read at your own discretion. You’ve been warned.

 

The Art: The art is solid as usual. Eaglesham and Derenick deliver quality work that transitions easily from action, to jokes, to dramatic moments. There are times it looks a little cartoony, but it’s not terrible. In fact, despite the lighter look or feel, they always convey the emotions that are intended for the scene with excellence. Some readers might say that there are weird moments, but this is a weird book. These are weird characters. You kind of have to embrace it, and I do that happily each month.

To review some of the internal art, check out the spoiler tag below.

Spoiler

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The Good: Look, there’s a lot of good to be found here, but it’s been greatly overshadowed by delays, inverted stories, and now a poor set-up/reveal. At the end of the day though, Gail Simone is a talented writer, and exceeds in many areas – especially form a technical standpoint. The strongest aspect of this book are the characters themselves. While I would completely understand someone’s reason for dropping this title after everything that’s occurred, I hope they stick through it, and I hope this title manages to turn itself around.

 

The Bad: Alright… let’s talk about this secret that’s been alluded to since the first issue. After all the mystery and all of the hype, the big secret is that these people were all on a boat together for the unveiling of a diamond, and the unveiling ended up going south? Not to mention, Riddler was the one throwing the party because he had met Big Shot’s wife – the woman who kidnapped Catman back in issue 1 – and wanted to ask her to marry him… Uh, ok… let’s discuss everything I have an issue with here.

First off, this doesn’t sound like the Riddler to me. He meets a woman, decides he loves her. Comes across a diamond. Decides to use it to woo said woman into marrying him, but becomes extremely vengeful and psychotic towards six individuals over the course of a few years because the event/proposal doesn’t go well? Nope. Don’t buy it. I also don’t buy him in this crime lord type of role. I feel like half of the people he’s controlling could easily wipe he and his goons out without breaking a sweat. Especially Jeannette! She went toe to toe with Wonder Woman for crying out loud! Now she’s nothing but a lackey for the Riddler?

Also, all six members of the team just happened to be at that party? Ok, I can kind of buy that. Big Shot’s involvement makes sense considering it was a set-up. Catman was hired to work security, which I can bring myself to believe. The Ventriloquist was there because she loves crashing high end parties. Fine. Porcelain was there to try and steal the diamond. Sure. Black Alice was there to steal the diamond. Alright, I gue- wait… this took place years ago… am I supposed to believe she was supposed to be around the age of 13 and managed to crash a high end party in hopes of stealing a diamond? Nope don’t buy it. Oh, and then there’s Strix, who was also working security because the Court of the Owls was courteous enough to lend her out? Wait, what? You’ve lost me now. I don’t buy it! Even beyond their reasons for being there, dozens of people were on that boat! What made these six in particular the targets of Riddler’s psychotic tendencies? Why not other people? This just doesn’t add up for me.

And on top of it all, there’s Blake and his abilities. Remember what I told you to keep in mind at the beginning of this review? Blake recognized Scandal Savage because of her scent. He never fully saw her the year that he was in captivation, but he knew her scent. Yet somehow, he didn’t recognize any of the other team members scents when he met them in the underwater coffin. And I find it impossible that he didn’t recognize Big Shot’s wife visually or by scent after the experiences he had with her.  (Sigh…)

 

Recommended if:

  • You want to know what the secret is that connects the Secret Six
  • You’ve desired to see more of the Riddler since he was revealed as Mockingbird
  • Your biggest hope after last month’s issue was that you hadn’t seen the last of Scandal, Ragdoll, and Jeannette. 

 

Overall: This is easily the worst issue of Secret Six to date. For many people, I think this issue might be the straw that breaks the camel’s back, and forces readers to drop this title for another title. I hope that isn’t the case because I feel like this book has a lot of potential, but sometimes the time just isn’t right.

SCORE: 6.5/ 10