In the world of comics, there is an endless cavalcade of “good people doing good things:” Batman, Spiderman, etc. There’re even a few books about “bad people doing good things,” we’ve got the “Suicide Squad,” “Deadpool,” “The Punisher,” so on and so forth. So here comes the inevitable question: Is there a bad-people-doing-bad things book? The answer is yes, and it’s amazing. Enter “Secret Six Volume 2: Money for Murder” (2008) by Gail Simone. “Secret Six” tells the tale of a six-person mercenary group of the same name, featuring fan favorite characters such as the amoral sharpshooter Deadshot and the brains and brawn combo of Bane, as well as more obscure characters like Ragdoll, Scandal Savage, Jeanette and Catman (not a typo). Though the book is a collection of the title’s first two major story arcs, we’ll be focusing on the first of the two, “Unhinged,” this week.
“Unhinged” sees the Six’s being hired to find a vigilante, Tarantula, who is in possession of a mythical object that the team’s anonymous client has requested. The only other request is to bring the two of them to Gotham City. The catch? An enigmatic and frighteningly powerful mobster named Junior wants the object as well, and the three stop at nothing to get it. Junior quickly dispatches a seemingly endless array of B- and C-list supervillains to kill our protagonists. Everyone from Cheetah and King Shark to Cheshire and Mr. Terrible is out for a piece of the Six.
One of the book’s strongest qualities is the endless series of fights, all gorgeously drawn by Nicola Scott. The brutality on display is something else — since our main characters are ‘bad guys’ they have no qualms about mowing enemies down, or breaking jaws with their bare hands. This isn’t to discount the writing, of course, with Gail Simone absolutely nailing the tone you’d expect a conversation between a bunch of supervillains to sound like. The sarcasm and black comedy in this book are on another level, with Deadshot being the comedic highlight. For instance, Deadshot takes time to show a group of inept robbers how to properly conduct a stick-up, then pockets the cash.
Despite their best intentions, though, I can’t help but love our friendly neighborhood gang of psychopaths, as Simone moves heaven and earth to remind us that these villains are still people. Scandal loses her girlfriend Knockout, Bane is dealing with his addiction to the strength-augmenting drug Venom and Catman struggles to balance his animalistic nature with his humanity. Given such a weighty task, most would stumble, but Simone takes the baton with zeal and manages to balance each character’s issues and gives each member a chance to shine. Secret Six is a fast-paced, funny and at times heart-wrenching thrill ride through the darkest corners of the DC Universe masterfully told by a modern comic prodigy.