Monday, July 11, 2011

Secret Six #34: The Jagged End of the Chainsaw

Cover by Daniel LuVisi
Writer: Gail Simone
Penciller: J. Calafiore
Colorist: John Kalisz
Letterer: Travis Lanham

I follow the great Gail Simone on Twitter and there’s been a lot of talk recently on her work with Secret Six, a group of villainous anti-heroes that I really know nothing about I(and which sadly, is ending with the DC re-launch in September). Once again, as a very new fan of anything not directly Batman-related, I struggled for a bit with keeping track of each character and what their motives/goals were while reading this issue. But, as always, it was the strength of Simone’s writing that kept me entertained and thoroughly interested in this issue, even when I wasn’t completely sure what exactly was going on.

Secret Six #34 opened right in the middle of a tense situation: Knockout is being tortured by a murderous fanatic who claims he is doing God’s work by killing Knockout and, as Catman hints, a number of sex workers. The remainder of the Secret Six arrive to rescue Knockout and seek their own brand of justice on Knockout’s torturer.

As I’ve said before, Simone does not shy away from incorporating dark scenes of violence or extremely grim moments. I really appreciate that and find that instead of using violence as an exploitive measure, Simone manages to balance it and give the comic depth and a profound sense of despair. The violence in this comic is not glorified, which is a danger when it comes to comic books, but instead, treated as a grim reality of the Secret Six’s lives.

Another aspect that I really enjoyed here was the character of Bane. The only things I knew about Bane before this comic was that he once broke Batman’s back and that the painfully attractive Tom Hardy will be playing him in The Dark Knight Rises. I’ve talked about Bane before with some friends of mine who are more familiar with the character, and they always left me with the impression that just wasn’t that interesting a character. Perhaps as a Batman villain, insane characters like the Joker are just more fun to read but I thoroughly enjoyed what I read of Bane here in Secret Six #34. He was not at all like I expected; he was rather stoic and almost calming, though obviously deadly and a bit terrifying. I found Simone’s rendition of him as a character struggling to understand the ordinary things in life, such as how to eat a candied apple, endearing and also funny without being cloying. This issue definitely made me want to read more about Bane, especially before the new film is released.

The art by Calafiore wasn’t anything new or impressive but it certainly wasn’t weak either. His interesting use of perspective in the panels definitely added to the work, along with Kalisz’s great use of lighting. The characters’ facial expressions were minute and communicative, an aspect that can sometimes be overlooked in a comic with multiple fight scenes such as this one.

Overall, I did not find my lack of background knowledge a major hindrance while reading Secret Six #34. Though I know I could’ve only benefitted from understanding a great deal more of the characters before reading this issue, I still found it a very strong, well-written and engaging work. It didn’t hurt that she managed to incorporate my favorite quote from the English mystic, Julian of Norwich into a comic book. If anything, this issue inspired me to read more of Simone’s run on the Secret Six as soon as possible.

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