Ah, Secret Six, your time has come to an end. I really wish I could say I’m going to miss this particular run, but I honestly think that saying goodbye is the best thing for now. Does that mean I hated this run? No, I just don’t think the book ever really found itself. I’ve been vocal concerning my issues with Secret Six for a while now (delays, tone, direction), but I don’t think all of these issues should be blamed on the creative team. The narrative has been all over the place though, and I can’t help but feel that Gail Simone’s heart just wasn’t into this run. That doesn’t mean that I think she doesn’t care about the title or the characters, I just feel that other circumstances made this a less than enjoyable experience for her. There’s no proof of this, it’s just my interpretation.
Alright, let’s get back on track. What are my thoughts on the final issue? In many ways, it’s the perfect ending, and in many ways, it’s not. As a whole, for the entirety of Secret Six, it’s a poor ending. After spending so much time trying to prove why these misfits would stay together, there isn’t much of a team focus here. Instead, the focus is on one character. If that character was Catman, I would probably be ok with this as an ending, considering he launched the title and is arguably the lead of this book… But the focus isn’t on Catman. Because of that, it doesn’t feel like Secret Six is ending. It just feels like we wrapped another arc, and are moving forward… Which we’re not…
The best way I can describe my thoughts, is by looking at the book as a whole. I’ll focus on this specific issue later. Ultimately, I feel like I never got to experience a full story. Out of the six characters, only Ralph Dibny and Strix are fully realized and have an actual beginning, middle, and end. You could potentially argue an arc for Catman, but it would be a weak one. That leaves Black Alice, Porcelain, Shawna, and the “B-Team” (Scandal, Jeanette, Ragdoll, and Knockout). Shawna has been a hot mess since the beginning, and never really won my favor, while Porcelain actually appeared to be interesting but never got a chance to be showcased. As for Black Alice, an arc was started for her, but then got tossed to the side when all was said and done. Then you have the “B-Team.” They were never meant to be the focus – at least for now – but every time they appeared, it was clear that they were stronger characters than most of the main team (except for Catman and Strix… maybe Dibny near the end). But even then, they were just kind of there.
In terms of the plot, I can’t give you an organic reason as to why the team stayed together. Yes, I know why they were brought together (which is honestly a weak plot in my opinion), and I get that they view each other as a family, but that notion had to be shoved down the readers’ throats. The only time I ever thought the team had an actual cause that brought them together, was when Black Alice was losing control of her powers and almost destroyed the universe… And again, that plot is left wide open! Black Alice is still being controlled. That’s not the only thing left open though. Early in the run, Jeanette made a proclamation of an event that was to come, and that never happened… There are just too many things that are unfinished or, it pains me to say this, but executed half-assed that I can’t be satisfied with this ending. So, if I’m unsatisfied with most of these elements, what made parts of this ending perfect? Strix. And that’s, honestly, how I’ll probably remember this run: as a perfect ending for Strix.
The current story focuses on her, so it makes sense that it would close with her. Lady Shiva wants to leave the League of Assassins, but to do so, she has to find a suitable replacement. The only person she deems worthy to take her mantle, is Strix. For the sake of her friends, Strix agrees to go with Shiva. From here, Shiva begins to destroy all of the attachments and joys in Strix’s life, before putting her through mental and physical tests. The rest of the Secret Six decide they can’t let her go without a fight, so they decide to rescue her.
That’s where this final issue picks up. The facility where Shiva is prepping Strix comes under attack, and the entire gang is here. Each character is given a chance to shine, starting with Black Alice – which you can see from the title page. Next we get to see the newly reformed Ralph with the “B-Team,” before transitioning to Porcelain and Shawna, and then Catman. There’s a lot of action and a few twists, but there’s also a few head-scratching plots that don’t make sense. Unfortunately, the title falls back on a bad habit by abruptly ending a conflict, and explaining what took place through exposition. I can’t tell you how much this annoys me. I’m a “show it, don’t say it” kind of guy when it comes to writing, and while I understand that the team was limited in the number of pages they had to utilize, this isn’t the first time they’ve done this… It comes across as being lazy.
Thankfully, there is a touching epilogue, and yes, it features Strix.
The Art: For the second month in a row, Derenick is solo on pencils. I don’t mind his work, but I definitely prefer Eaglesham over him. While Derenick’s art always looks cartoony to me, Eaglesham manages to morph his art to fit the mood and tone of the book. As for this issue in particular, the art is much like the narrative. Overall, it’s just ok, but there are moments of beauty found here and there.
Breakdowns are in the spoiler tag.
The action. The action in this issue was done well, and a lot of fun. There was a certain energy to the fights that brought the book alive, and really carried the pace of the book quite well. Kudos to Derenick for that!
Strix insulting Shiva. There’s a moment where Strix tries to get under Shiva’s skin by insulting her, and I laughed so hard the moment I read it. She has clearly picked up some quirks from Catman, because I can’t picture anyone else teaching her these insults.
And… she insulted Shiva on something that I’ve hated since her introduction in the New 52…
Yes… Yes, it does!
Oh $#!&. I fully expected someone to die in this issue, and because of that, I was anxiously turning each page. I thought it was going to be Strix, but then this happened:
Oh… rip out my heart and stomp on it. Catman was the one character that I didn’t want to see get the axe… Fortunately, it was just a red herring. More on that later though (*cough* in the bad section *cough*).
I am Strix.
Yes you are, and yes it is. I’m a little biased because I’ve been a fan of Strix since Birds of Prey, and most readers didn’t like her back then. It wasn’t that I thought she was an amazing character at that time, it’s just that I felt like she had a lot of potential… That perception was proven with this run, before being topped off in this issue. If you don’t walk away from this book with a little bit of sadness that Strix doesn’t have a home in Rebirth, then you’re not a human being. As I mentioned above, she’s one of the few characters that was fully realized in this title, and we were treated to so many shades of who she’s grown to be… but at the end of the day, she’s still a badass underneath this softer exterior.
Shawna stabs Catman. Seriously? How in the hell does this make sense? I get that she’s crazy, but I can’t help but feel Simone was only shooting for shock value… I mean, Shawna just said she was feeling her first selfless thought, then helped stopped some League members, then stabs him…
Nine lives. Ok… I don’t necessarily dislike that Catman can survive mortal wounds (he claimed his cape was magical and could heal wounds in previous incarnations), it’s just how it’s presented. I’m even ok with the whole nine lives bit, but the reveal is so nonchalant. On top of that, it takes away from the shocking moment when he’s stabbed… It just didn’t work for me.
Locked-Up. Shawna gets locked up in Arkham by Batgirl (as we’re told in exposition). I’m not mad this happened, I’m mad that it took fourteen issues for this to happen… I would have been happy if it happened much earlier in the run because her character was a waste of space.
- You’re a fan of Strix.
- You’ve been following this run since the beginning.
Overall: As with the entire series, there are some highs and lows in this final issue. While Strix knocked this story out of the park for me, everything else left me quite unsatisfied…