Saturday, 27 December 2014

Secret Six: Cats in the Cradle Review (Gail Simone, John Ostrander)


I’m trying to educate myself about the Secret Six and figure out who they are and what they’re about but my library doesn’t have the whole sequence of books in order so I’m grabbing random selections as and when they appear. Cats in the Cradle seems like a good book to start with though as it’s the origin of Catman who I think is the Six’s leader.

The Six go on a mission to somewhere to rescue a girl called Alice who turns out to have superpowers. When they return to the rich guy for payment, Catman gets a call - his infant son has been kidnapped with an ultimatum: Catman must kill his teammates or sacrifice his boy. 

One of the first things that struck me about this book is the team lineup which includes Deadshot, Bane and King Shark - isn’t this just Suicide Squad? I kept wondering throughout what exactly separates the two DC team books and the only difference I could see was that Suicide Squad are forced to go on missions for ARGUS to commute their jail sentences and they’re controlled by some infernal devices, and Secret Six go on missions for money. Somehow that makes the Six seem worse than the Squad and those dudes are scum! 

Tonally too it’s as bleak and miserable as Suicide Squad. Infanticide, gore, domestic violence, patricide, attempted rape - yup, it’s a DC comic! And because it’s a DC team book there’s a scene where the Six fight amongst themselves for no reason and to no effect. There’s a dumb quota that’s gotta be met! 

The characters themselves don’t interest me that much and are as relatively unknown as those in the Squad. Besides the Bat-villains Bane and Deadshot, and Catman who I’ll get to later, there’s Ragdoll, whose powers include contortion and wearing a mask, Jeannette, whose power is to wear revealing outfits, Black Alice, who’s a shapeshifter and at one point turns herself into Estrogan, a female version of Etrigan the Demon that doesn’t sound at all like a female hormone, Cheshire, whose bite is poison and is Catman’s lady because Cheshire… Cat? Aha...ha, and Scandal Savage, who fights real good like her pop, Vandal Savage.

Notice anything? Yup, there’s eight people on the team! And given the frequency of their mercenary missions, they don’t appear to be very secret either. So they’re not secret and they’re not six. But I guess Secret Six is catchier than the Well-Known Eight and Sometimes More (because four more characters, including King Shark, join the group later on!). 

Catman’s origin is very unimaginative. Catman’s dad is a psycho game hunter who beats his wife, emotionally abuses his son, and makes him shoot a sedated lion and the cub who’s trying to nurse from his unconscious mother because Catman’s dad is a bastard. You can’t get a more one dimensional bad guy than this, Gail Simone! 

As you’d expect given DC’s trademark “dark and gritty” tone throughout, things don’t end well for Catman’s folks but things end shortly after his pre-teens - we never see him grow up, change, decide to become a derivative superhero cross between Batman and Catwoman, or put on the costume. So not a great origin story at all. 

The volume closes out with a couple of non-sequitur standalone issues that suck worse than the preceding four: the Six go to a tropical island to fight bored rich people because the “man is the deadliest prey” storyline isn’t played out at all, and a Western starring the Six because… 

So I learned that I still don’t like the Secret Six, who’re pretty much interchangeable with the Suicide Squad, and that Catman’s origins are much less interesting than I’d expected. Cats in the Cradle is a pretty terrible book all around but there’s gotta be a reason why this series is rated so highly so maybe I just picked the wrong volume to kick off with?

Secret Six: Cats in the Cradle

No comments:

Post a Comment