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Secret Six #1

You know what makes this book great? I'm pretty sure we can come up with six reasons and hope they don't stay secret.

1. Gail Simone
We have to start with one of the best writers working in comics, returning to a title that she made into one of DC's quirkiest and best books before The New 52 happened. Though fans hated to see it end, Simone brought her previous run to a pretty organic conclusion, even though it was forced upon her. Because it's Simone, this is what we can say about this revived title:

2. It Doesn't Matter That It's a Whole New Continuity
Simone brings back two -- possibly three -- characters from the old reality, though they are new versions. This way she really gets to build them up from scratch. Catman, for example, is a character we hadn't seen in the New 52, and thus he has a whole new layer of mystery. He also seems to have a few different feline characteristics, being more of a "catman" than ever before, but no less obviously dangerous. And smart.

As the centerpiece of the Six, Catman feels like an old friend, but the new characters look intriguing, too. I had just been disturbed by the new version of The Ventriloquist, but Simone makes her into something a little poignant under the surface. And welcome back, Black Alice. There's much more to be mined there.

3. Secret Six Mixes Every Version From Before
This series returns to its roots from long ago -- six characters in search of a meaning. In the 1960s, Secret Six was a straight-up espionage title, but the New 52 status quo means that all titles have to somehow deal with metahumans. And why bring back Simone if she can't have the toys she made famous anyway? Somehow it carries the best of the original with the best of the new. Still...

4. This Isn't a Book About Superpowers
Yes, a few of the characters do have powers, but the way Simone sets this up, that's secondary to the literal locked room mystery. Two mysterious factions are vying for Thomas Black (Catman), and after the requisite fight scene, one wins. He awakens in a huge room that's shaped like a coffin, with five other prisoners. The powers just aren't going to solve the problem; so far they seem more like they're going to get in the way.

5. Intriguing Art and Color Pallette
The team of Lashley, Geraci, and Wright mesh pretty well. The handing off of inking duties is seamless, and the whole book has a rough gritty vibe to it. Colorist Jason Wright melds the styles together by keeping each sequence in an individual tone -- mostly browns and greens that give this book a bit of a pulpish feel. They're not dull colors, though. Wright's work pops off the page.

6. Proof That The New 52 Is Now Freer
The experiment has not been discarded; it's just evolved. This book feels like it could go for quite a while without crossing over into any other, and that would be just fine. It also feels like it has a creative point of view, not an editorial one. Maybe that's wishful thinking and belief in the power of Simone, but this, the new Batgirl, Gotham Academy, and a few others in the pipeline make it seem like DC has learned a pretty good lesson. Books can exist in their own quiet corners, and forcing all the pieces to fit limits creativity.

Yes, those listed titles technically belong to Batman continuity, but they have their own style. Even this one has the potential to loop back to Gotham City -- one character could be from the Court of Owls, I think The Ventriloquist is still in Batman's rogues' gallery, and, historically, Catman counts as a Batman villain. But you don't need to know any of that -- all you need to do is enjoy this book.

Derek McCaw

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