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Includes Issues:Secret Six 1-6
Issue Dates:July 2006 – January 2007
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This review may contain light spoilers. Skip To The Verdict? »

Well, hello there TRO brothers and sisters!

Did you enjoy yourself some Villains United? I can only imagine that after reading Simon’s review, you quickly went down to your local comic boutique and purchased that fine trade.

Did it leave you craving even more of the stubborn-to-be-villainous Catman? The ultra-limber Ragdoll? The quick to mouth off (even quicker to shoot) Deadshot?

If so, you are in luck! Come with me for a brief chat about another book you will soon pick up: Secret Six: Six Degrees of Devastation.

This volume collects the 6 issue limited series that was released from 2006-2007 before the birth of the ongoing series in September 2009.

Gail Simone (Birds of Prey) brings back America’s favorite group of villai… wait… America’s favorite group of heroe… hmm… nope… America’s favorite group of oddly thrown together characters that have a good time fighting pretty much anyone who is against them.

And believe me when I say pretty much everyone is in opposition to the Secret Six, including each other.

The opening of the story focuses on reforming the team. Due to events at the end of Villains United and the one-shot included in Infinite Crisis Companion, there are now two spots open to complete their hex-tastic group of supermembers. If you’re jumping in here, don’t worry – the collection starts off with a brief recap of previous events.

It fills the readers in that Knockout is the newest member, filling the fifth spot. She is a former fury of Apokolips and the new lover of one Ms. Scandal Savage. That leaves one down, one to go.

As the book opens, a more immediate concern is that one of their current members is being held prisoner in North Korea. Obviously, this calls for a rescue. It’s a nice introduction, since it makes sense to start a book like this off with some action. After a wonderfully presented butt-whooping of the prisoner camp guards we follow Catman as he ventures off to recruit their last member. (Their dedication to ensuring the use of the awesome title “Secret Six” is really quite commendable.)

I won’t spoil who this character is, but know that he is nutty as they come. Put him, Ragdoll, and a copy of the DSM-IV in a padded cell and you’ll spend weeks trying to figure out who’s crazier.

For the next five issues the team’s focus is on defending themselves from attacks by a defunct member of the “Six”, old foe Dr. Psycho, and Scandal’s father, Vandal Savage, who soon becomes the main antagonist of this story.

This continues to be thoroughly entertaining with action here and there, scenes of indecency among team members (including a sex scene with a hat!?!), and a cameo clash with another team of characters – perhaps as screwed up as the Six, but like to think of themselves as heroes. The moments of relative calm are just as engrossing as the fight sequences.

Gail Simone has done a fantastic job of giving each and every one of the characters, even the cameos, very distinct personalities that keep Secret Six: Six Degrees of Devastation fresh page after page.

Catman has became one of the most interesting DC denizens, especially considering that he was pretty much a nobody before being brought back to the scene in Villains United. I was surprised at how much I enjoyed him and he’s totally on my list of characters to follow now.

Simone takes plots that could easily be clichéd and makes them work very well. For example, I am quite tired of the character who is skilled, knows he’s good, and can’t stop with the cocky one liners.

Somehow, she’s given Deadshot a great personality, showing both his professional and personal side, without making him an over the top character.

Almost any of these complex villains could carry this story by themselves if they needed to. Because of her excellent writing, I will definitely be looking into Simone’s Birds of Prey run, her previous work on Deadpool/Agent-X, and recent Wonder Woman stories – just to name a few.

Instead of Dale Eaglesham from Villains United, Gail calls in art support from Brad Walker to illustrate (Superman 3-2-1 Action, Guardians of the Galaxy) and Jimmy Palmiotti to do the inking (who probably only gets cover credit, unlike most inkers, because of his writing on Jonah Hex and Power Girl).

This team delivered a fantastic visual presentation that was clean, crisp, and entertaining without being monotonous.

They kept the action precise and the scenes were very pleasing to the eye and intuitive to follow from panel to panel. I am sad to see that they do not continue their work in the ongoing Secret Six series, but I will definitely keep an eye out for their names.

As you can probably tell, I am now in love with the Six.

Gail Simone and team have created a fantastic reinvention of the Secret Six with completely new takes on old characters. This series begs to be read by any comic fan.

Verdict:
A strong 4.5 out of 5!

Essential Continuity:

It sure is. It’s the start of an amazing group of characters. They are now involved in a successful ongoing sure to be pivotal in some DC Universe events down the line.

Read first:
There was a 7 issue Secret Six title from 1968 – 1969, which has a few small links to Villains United. A second Six had appearances in Post-Crisis Action Comics. None of this has been collected and they were entirely different casts, so don’t worry about it.

Reading Villains United would definitely enhance your experience, as it introduced this grouping. The Secret Six subsequently appeared in the Infinite Crisis Companion.

It’s good to understand where they are coming from, but if you picked this up without having any other knowledge it would still be incredibly enjoyable. I have a fairly narrow knowledge of the DC Universe and the only time I had to wiki a character was to get more of a backstory for Vandal Savage. If you dislike wiki-ing, you should be able to get enough information by checking out the individual reading orders linked from each character’s name.

Read next:
This was a limited series so it can be read on its own and has a satisfying ending. However, after completing this you can now jump right into the ongoing series starting with Secret Six: Unhinged.

The six did appear between the mini and their ongoing in Birds of Prey: Dead Of Winter, also by Gail Simone. That’s the seventh volume collecting the recent Birds of Prey ongoing, though, so you may want some familiarity with that series to get the most out of it.

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22 Comments Post New »

  1. avatar Ian wrote on at January 26, 2011 3:06 am:

    Congrats on your first TRO review, Chris! Good show, my good man. Hope you like the images I worked in. There wasn’t really a spot for that last Ragdoll one, but I couldn’t resist including it anyway.

    I’m looking forward to your next one.

    [Reply]

  2. avatar Chris D. wrote on at January 26, 2011 3:08 am:

    Ha, that’s great! I love how there’s such a presence of “Ragdoll = Crazy” in the pictures that you selected. Thanks for all your hard work editing.

    [Reply]

    avatar Ian replied on January 26th, 2011 at 3:10 am:

    My pleasure!

    He definitely ended up the star of this blog post. Mostly by chance, it was hard to find images that didn’t have other panels or dialogue overlapping. I try to get ones that are still enjoyable out of context.

    [Reply]

  3. avatar Eric wrote on at January 26, 2011 11:43 am:

    I have always wanted to start reading secret six, and now i have a great place to start. Thanks!

    [Reply]

    avatar Chris D. replied on January 26th, 2011 at 5:37 pm:

    I’m glad that this has helped Eric. Outside of Villains United I didn’t know that the Secret Six continued their adventures until I came across the listing here on TRO.

    [Reply]

  4. avatar Simon wrote on at January 26, 2011 3:32 pm:

    Well done Chris! You just have to love them all especially Rag Doll and his monkeys

    As regards to the BOP title, you dont need to have read the previous trade to follow it

    Simones writimg is top notch in bop but would avoid ww fas not as good

    The one thing that lets down this trade is that our new god lady is quite lacking in depth

    [Reply]

    avatar Chris D. replied on January 26th, 2011 at 3:40 pm:

    Thanks for the advice Simon. I have been very interested in reading Birds of Prey since Gail took over the writing, but I wasn’t sure if I had to start from the beginning or I could just jump in when she started. I know there were already a good amount of trades out before she took over.

    [Reply]

    avatar Simon replied on January 27th, 2011 at 6:50 am:

    There were 3 trades before but there is a gap in publication meaning there could have been more than 3 before her run. The gap of 25 issues means that clearly nothing much has happened in the bits before her run, so her first volume is like a mini reboot.

    [Reply]

    avatar Ian replied on January 26th, 2011 at 9:35 pm:

    Good to know, Simon. I added that note in since I wasn’t sure of how heavy it relied on continuity.

    [Reply]

    avatar Simon replied on January 27th, 2011 at 6:51 am:

    As a small team they are quite easy to follow and sort out the order, they don’t appear much elsewhere, not even sure if they appear in Salvation Run in any guise.

    [Reply]

  5. avatar Simon wrote on at January 27, 2011 12:54 pm:

    Just re-read this as hadn’t read in forever and thought I’d like to share my thoughts on the art as they differ slightly from yours.

    On the whole the pencils are good. The normal human faces (Scandal, Catman and Knockout) really jar with me; I just find they look bit odd.

    Knockout is the worst, her hair looks like a dead animal is on her head and it looks a bit silly.

    It’s a shame as the writing is hard to fault but those faces jus don’t sit right with me, thoroughly enjoyed the book again though :D

    [Reply]

    avatar Chris D. replied on January 27th, 2011 at 2:21 pm:

    That’s really great to know. I think it really helps the site to have the feedback of other members to help give more depth and discussion to the reviews. I have admitted that I’m not the best at critiquing art. I don’t really recall being actually turned off by any art that I’ve seen in a trade. Even if it’s not as good as others, it lends a certain feel to the book. I remember reading some reviews on Green Lantern trades and people ripping on the artist (I think it’s Patrick Gleason) and I think “really, I thought it was just fine.” Thus…it’s obviously something I need to work on and gain a better eye for reviews.

    [Reply]

    avatar Simon replied on January 27th, 2011 at 2:41 pm:

    The art is always the hardest to comment on as okay and good art are more than fine as long as writing quality is good too. The way I try to approach it is I try to remove the writers input and try and figure out if there is anything in the art that looks better/worse than average.
    The fact art is so subjective makes life difficult to comment on too.

    I happen to love very varied types of illustration and dislike very few; the only things that get on my nerve is if objects (organic or non-organic) don’t look as they should or their look changes too much throughout the book.

    Then there is the whole good art but wrong place for it; like using childish drawings in very serious stories or vis versa. Try and imagine how ineffective From Hell would be if it were illustrated by Tim Sale, or how dark The Wizard of Oz would turn out if drawn by Ben Templesmith.

    [Reply]

    avatar Simon replied on January 27th, 2011 at 2:43 pm:

    Example of what I mean for this trade, in those top 3 panels watch how Scandal’s face changes from square to wide and pointy, then to narrow and pointy. Minor but once you notice them you can’t not see them.

    [Reply]

    avatar Chris D. replied on January 27th, 2011 at 2:59 pm:

    Thanks for pointing that out…now you’ve ruined it for me…haha. Yeahk that 2nd pic in the left lower corner stands out so much compared to the rest. To me I just figured it was angle changes, but that wouldn’t really cause her chin to appear that way.

    [Reply]

    avatar Simon replied on January 27th, 2011 at 3:01 pm:

    But he draws damn good monkeys

    [Reply]

    avatar Ian replied on January 27th, 2011 at 9:49 pm:

    yeah.

    It’s also hard because it’s gets even more tricky in comics – an artist could be terrible at rending consistent faces, for example, but be really good at implying action between panels. Or giving a sense of mood to a scene. There’s so many things that the art must do at one time.

    [Reply]

    avatar Simon replied on January 28th, 2011 at 3:44 am:

    Exactly that and even the best artists struggle at something; i.e. Alex Ross paints masterpieces but they all look mostly stationary with makes the action stuttery.

    [Reply]

    avatar Chris D. replied on January 28th, 2011 at 10:28 am:

    I absolutely love Alex Ross’ work. I have The 3 vol Justice series and while his images are drool-worthy I’d have to agree that action is the last thing I think of when I recall his work.

    [Reply]

  6. avatar Drakul wrote on at February 18, 2011 6:32 pm:

    Looks really nice. I’m adding the whole series to my amazon wishlist.

    [Reply]

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