Often it’s more fun to play the villain than the hero. As the villain, one is allowed, even expected, to break the rules and to be unpredictable. Being a villain is an indulgence in freedom. A hero, on the other hand, is routine and predictable, never straying from the prescribed social role heroes must fulfill. Gail Simone’s Secret Six is a textbook example of the bad guys being far more entertaining than their socially responsible and morally upright adversaries. Focusing on a largely unknown cast comprised of B and C list villains seems a questionable premise for a comic title. Comic book publishing is, sadly, a reactionary industry with a relatively small reader base. However, Simone injects such heavy amounts of characterization, humor and drama into the deep tissue of this book that undoubtedly makes this audacious premise a grand slam.
For all of her accolades and attributes, Simone first and foremost brings a snarky, somewhat dark tone to her work. Thematically this aspect fits Secret Six like spandex. Focusing on a, debatably, low profile cast, Simone has the keys to their respective kingdoms. If this book’s cast was comprised of Lex Luthor, the Joker or any number of instantly recognizable fiends a good deal of drama would have gone out the window. Those characters are well trodden icons. No way would the Joker meet his end outside of a Batman centric book. Conversely, the cast of Secret Six are fair game. Each month the ongoing drama progresses and each cast member’s fate is fair game. As a matter of fact, with a wickedly perverse crew such as this the shadow of death and betrayal isn’t very far off.
Simply put, Secret Six is one long game of shock and surprise with heavy doses of gallows’ humor for good measure. Each character oozes with disdain and contempt for each other, but, ironically, routinely relies on one another to make it in the highly competitive world of super villainy. Never the less, while villains, the cast of Secret Six are far from cackling mad men and women. Their chosen vocation is simply a job.
Playing the villain pays the bills. It isn’t about the thrill of dealing death or carnage but making it through the day alive. Again, while the cast is more often than not backstabbing each other, a true sense of community and friendship arises from their mutual association. While this title may lack the instant recognition of DC Comic’s more institutional books, it ultimately is a more satisfying read. Simone has free reign with these characters.
Unfortunately, many comic book characters are incredibly stagnant. The Batman fifty years from now will be relatively the same Batman as today. It’s due to his iconic status. However, Simone’s cast is far from a billion dollar property. These toys can be taken out, played with and broken if she chooses to do so. Walk on the wrong side of the law with Simone and grab a copy of Secret Six for one of the most engaging and scintillating reads on today’s comic stands.