Tuesday, 30 December 2014

Secret Six: Six Degrees of Devastation Review (Gail Simone, Brad Walker)

Secret Six Degrees of Devastation Cover Gail Simone

Swiftly moving past the cruddy title - “Six Degrees of Devastation”, which sounds like an emo high school band’s name - I was hoping this book was going to reveal to me the brilliance of “fan favourite” Gail Simone’s Secret Six series that I’d missed with the last Six book (Cats in the Cradle) and the first issue of the New 52 re-launch that I’d read. And it didn’t. If anything, Six Degrees was worse than both and made me completely give up on the series! 

Six Degrees is labelled as Volume 0 meaning, at least to me, that this was a beginning, a jumping on point for the title. I was expecting an origin story, possibly truncated, to explain why these disparate individuals decided to start working together, how they came up with their name, their headquarters, yadda yadda yadda - and I got bupkis. Nada. They’re a fully-formed unit and this one reads like it may as well be Volume 7 or 8! 

My problems from the last book persist: they’re neither secret nor six - in this they are five until Jervis Tetch aka Mad Hatter joins them and then later Cheshire, which makes them seven. It’s such a stupid name for a series! I also mentioned in Cats in the Cradle that there’s no major difference between Simone’s Six and Suicide Squad. But if Simone is basically producing a weak facsimile of the Suicide Squad with the Secret Six, she becomes even less imaginative in this volume by lifting a storyline from 90s Batman comics using a pale imitation of Ra’s Al-Ghul in Vandal Savage. 

Once upon a time, Ra’s Al-Ghul wanted an heir and he wanted his daughter Talia to get knocked up by Batman. It happened, after Batman was roofied, and in 2006 we got Damian Wayne courtesy of Grant Morrison and the rest is history.

In Six Degrees, we have another immortal nobleman, Vandal Savage, with an army of ninjas and enormous resources with a daughter, Scandal (and by the way, what a rubbish name!), whom he wants to produce an heir by getting knocked up by Catman. 

Oh, the originality!! Y’know, I’m getting more and more puzzled as to why I thought Simone was a halfway decent writer in the first place - her work in this, and other Secret Six comics, has been atrocious! She’s lifted Suicide Squad and given it a superficial makeover, she’s lifting Batman plots, and she’s a one-trick pony, once again having the Six fight amongst themselves because we can’t go one team book at DC where they’re not battling one another! It’s soooo tedious to see this crap again. That and the dreary dialogue (“hospital food is terrible!”, how droll!) makes this an utterly dismal reading experience. 

The Six seems to be receptacle for B-list Batman villains to congregate while waiting to appear in a Batman comic and pretend they’re interesting – and they’re not. The other “original” characters (so far as I know) are derivative, like Ragdoll is the C-list Deadpool impressionist while Vandal is some random ninja lady. Knockout – yes, this is the name of a character! – is Glory-lite. 

The other half of this story is a weak plot about Vandal Savage wanting to kill off the Six because… Anyway, he employs Dr Psycho as a front to do this and, because of Psycho’s psychic powers(?) Catman hires Mad Hatter to counteract him. With hats? 

I’m not the biggest champion of old Jervis as a character because he’s essentially a Lewis Carroll creation shoe-horned into Gotham for shits and giggles, but I was appalled with the way Simone wrote him here. It was stupid enough when Jervis was suddenly revealed to have psychic powers (so far as I know this is the only book he has them!) and we know he’s got a thing for hats (he puts hats on fruit because joke!) but did we have to have a scene where he literally FUCKS A HAT?! This actually happened! What does that add to the story?! 

I disliked everything about this comic from the bad story, awful characterisation (when there was any), forgettable dialogue, all the problems listed above and even more I’m forgetting. As a Volume 0, this is one of most pitiful beginnings to a series I’ve ever seen. It doesn’t set anything up and it doesn’t explain anything. I could brush all of that aside if I got a good story instead but there’s nothing but crap here.

Secret Six – all of the comics I’ve read of it – has been so disappointing and bad that I don’t even rate Simone as a decent writer anymore. I don’t know why she’s a “fan favourite” writer, I don’t know why this title is considered good in the slightest, all I know is it isn’t for me. So long, Secret Six, you are an overrated and utterly pants series!

Secret Six: Six Degrees of Devastation

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