Review: Secret Six: Unhinged

And some of you people think we don’t listen to you.  Over the past year as we’ve discussed the many comic books that come out every week and which ones you, the loyal iFanbase, are reading that you think we should check out, one of the most recommended comics is Secret Six.  So much so that it won one of the coveted spots in our “Audience Demands It!” episode of the iFanboy video show.  Unfortunately, I didn’t get assigned to read Secret Six for that episode.  But my curiosity was piqued so I gave the the title a shot, courtesy of the first trade, Secret Six: Unhinged, which hits stores today.

Going into reading the Secret Six, I had a couple of preconceived notions.  The first being that I didn’t think I was a big fan of Gail Simone’s writing.  Not that I don’t like her or her writing, I just historically wasn’t thrilled by it.  The other being that I absolutely adore Nicola Scott’s art.  Now mind you, I’ve read very little by either Simone or Scott, these are just the preconceived notions I had in my bizarre inner workings of my head going into this reading adventure.  Let’s see if these notions were to be supported by actually reading the darn book.

To bring everyone else up to speed, here’s a brief background on Secret Six.  Spun out of the Villians United miniseries of a few years ago, Secret Six follows a rag tag group of would-be mercenaries of the DC Universe.  The team is made of up of characters who have been historically categorized villains, and who now straddle the gray area of moral ambiguity.  The team is made up of Deadshot, Bane (the only 2 characters I recognized), Catman, Scandal Savage and Ragdoll and you can see the seams that loosely hold these characters together right from the get go.

This trade paperback collects the first seven issues of the monthly Secret Six comic book series, and even though it starts with the first issue of the series, you immediately get a sense of a history with these characters.  So much so that for much of the first issue I was almost totally lost, not knowing what happened previously in the earlier mini-series and having to try and piece together the references and mentally make sense of these characters.  Once I got past that hurdle, the adventure began as the team is presented with a task from an unknown benefactor.  They have to spring another metahuman from prison who supposedly knows the location of a mysterious card that is very, very valuable.  Throw in the looming threat of another villain who is pulling the strings of the Secret Six and you have yourself a riotous adventure.

So did I like it?  I actually did.  I wouldn’t say I loved it, but I did find myself enjoying the book overall.  As I mentioned the beginning was a bit rough as I didn’t know who was who and why they were moaning or reacting to earlier events.  But once I got my bearings, the middle portion of the book was super enjoyable.  A good mix of banter and character moments combined with action and a fast pace of storytelling.  Unfortunately I found the ending to be as unsatisfying as the beginning.  The big villain reveal, ultimately, did not pay off at all and was actually kind of lame, and the ending of the story kind of sputtered to a resolution.  So for the most part — and by “part” I mean the middle — I enjoyed the book, but I don’t see myself clamoring to jump onto the title in issues.  I may read the next trade, but again, I’m not running to buy it once it comes out.

Were my preconceived notions validated? Pretty much. 

I didn’t hate Simone’s writing, in fact it was pretty good.  A lot of the dialogue was snappy and kept me interested with some pretty good jokes and character takes here and there.  But ultimately the story disappointed me.  As I referenced above, the ending and villain reveal completely fizzled for me.  Simone took a lot of time and coordination of elements to create a super interesting scenario and followed through on the action and pace of telling that story, only to pretty much have it fall flat on its face.  The villain reveal wasn’t as powerful or menacing as it could have been, rather it was random and quite weird and nearly unbelievable.  The ultimate ending to the greater story that had so much potential just kind of ended with a shrug. 

On the other hand, the one thing that kept me turning pages frantically was the artwork of Nicola Scott and cover artist Cliff Chiang.  Having Chiang (one of my favorite artists) do a lot of the covers to the issues of the series was a great complement to the interior, and eventual covers of Nicola Scott.  Both have that clean line to their characters, a style that I absolutely adore.  Scott is able to draw each character with such individuality, spanning from the costumes to their facial expressions.  She is truly drawing characters when she draws this book.  Her storytelling skills are solid, and while her layouts aren’t amazingly innovative they get accomplish the goal of telling the story in a clear manner while captivating me with what’s occurring inside the panels.  Nicola Scott is on her way to being a superstar artist; DC just needs to put her on a top book to unlock her potential, and I’ll put money down that she’ll blow everyone away with what she can do. 

I understand now why fans of Secret Six are so loyal to it.  It features morally ambiguous characters that you can’t help but root for with some fun and outrageous scenarios and humorous dialogue. It’s an underdog of a book.  The kind that you can love and think that it’s your own special secret that no one understands and your pray it doesn’t get canceled.  I totally get that, and I’m glad that you may have found the book you were meant to be reading.  But for me, I enjoyed it but don’t feel as passionate as you may about it.  That said, I hope for your sake that it doesn’t get canceled.  It’s a nice world where books like Secret Six are published and make people like you happy and I like living in that world.


  1. I felt the same way upon reading an issue of Secret Six.  It was somewhat interesting, but didn’t excite me.  I haven’t read an issue since.  I will likely give the trade a shot as soon as the library gets a copy.

    (I still don’t get cilantro on a burrito. I must be even more uncultured than I thought.) 

  2. I can see how you might be lost not having read Villains United and the 6 issue Secret Six mini that came after that but before the ongoing. They were both very good with Eaglesham art on the VU series.

  3. The big villian review is cooler if you have read the previous Secret Six mini, as that character had a role in there and actually (very very surprisingly) had a pretty bad ass moment or two in there. 

    Still, thanks for giving it a shot and an honest review.  The current storyline is very strong and quite enjoyable.  I wouldn’t say it’s better than the first one though, at least not yet.

  4. I really tried hard to like this.  All of my friends enjoy it.  It just didn’t click.  SOMETHINGS WRONG WITH ME!!!!!

  5. Secret Six is one of my fav series right now.  As an X-men fan I thought Ron would be use to stories which had endings that fizzled.  I say that as an X-Men fan myself.  I was extremely disspointed with Messiah Complex and Messiah War both which started off strong but who’s endings fizzled.  ( Hell even War Of Kings, a series I so enjoyed seemed to have an ending that was general unsatisfactory.)  Seems ot be a problem with comics in general these days.  The ending here was nowhere as bad though I do see Ron’s point.

  6. Now, we just have to find out what Conor thinks about it. So far we’re pretty much at 0 for 2.

  7. @Ilash: My thoughts are very, very similar to Ron’s, though a bit more on the negative side.

  8. @Conor: Wow, really? I’m surprised. I thought if any of you guys were going to really embrace it, it would be you.

  9. @Conor-Did one of you at least enjoy the part where Bane started breaking some backs and in his eyes everyone looked like Batman?  Come on, man!  One of you had to have laughed at that. 🙂

  10. @Ron & Conor: why do you hate America?

  11. I haven’t read this trade yet, but I really enjoyed Villains United and Six Degrees of Devastation.  I really like Simone’s writing though.  I loved her run on Birds of Prey.

  12. I’m glad I’m not the only one who wasn’t wowed by this book. I tried the first arc and it just wasn’t for me. Maybe it’s because I had heard how amazing and perfect it was and actually expected it to be amazing and perfect. I liked the idea of the Get Out of Hell Free Card. That was about it. None of the characters really interested me. I enjoyed the art but sometimes the coloring made it feel a little… plastic. I guess that’s the word for it. It’s been a while since I’ve read it so I could be remembering that part wrong.

  13. @drakedangerz: I did like that, yes.

    I liked parts of the book. Like Ron said, the middle bit was the best, I think.

  14. @Ron and Conor, did you guys read the Villians United and Secret Six: Six Degrees Of Devastation mini-series? If you didn’t you would probably understand the beginning better. Now, I’m a trade reader after reading the Villians United mini and the extra one-shot in the Infinite Crisis Companion; I’m planning on reading the ongoing series.

  15. I believe Josh found everything and started from scratch and read through it. Disliking it vehemently. I really liked the villain. Good Stuff.

  16. Hey, thats nice.  Thanks for each of you picking this up, sorry you didn’t enjoy it more, but hey, it’s gotta be better than deadpool….

  17. Need to get the trade very badly. But still I’m glad to see a full consensus on the title. It’s all subjective but to see pretty much your opinion as the same then it’s a good thing. Maybe I’ll like it, it definitely sounds good.

  18. @ShaunR: I didn’t read anything else beyond this trade.

  19. I’m about to read it now.  I bought like five issues of it as well.  I’m starting to feel bad that I just spent $30 for Secret Six cuz everybody says it is great, and now everybody says it sux.  WTF

    I really wish I had read those mini series mentioned.  Are they out in trade or do you have to buy it all in issues?

  20. Both minis are out in trade, I have the Villians United but not the Secret Six trade. Which I will get as soon as I can. Also if you read Infinite Crisis, get the IC Companion there is a Villians United one-shot in it.

  21. @Conor, Please give the first 2 minis a try it might help. 

  22. @ShaunR: I’ll be honest, that’s a lot of work for a trade that I only liked about 1/3 of. I’m not sure what the other minis would do for the quality of the writing, though. I’m just not thrilled by Simone’s work. Never have been.

  23. @Conor, fair enough

  24. I love this book. At least Ron, Josh, and Conor gave it a try.  If you are interested at all in Wonder Woman and Artemis (I have fond memories of some of the 90s book where Artemis took over as WW) The current arc may interest you.  My guess is that Ron, Josh, and Conor would have the same feelings about it though.

  25. I really hesitate to tell people "you should read _____ before reading _____"  That’s usually a turn off for most people.  The idea of having to invest in extra stories just to fully enjoy another is not everyone’s cup of tea.  I personally just grabbed the first issue of this series and loved the hell out of it.  Only during the middle of the first arc did I like it enough to actually go out and hunt down the first two trades.  I’m glad I did, but that’s just personal preference.

    Bottom line: if you were luke warm about this arc, you probably won’t go wild for the previous minis either. 

  26. I totally agree about the opening. Although I’ve read and own both the first two mini-series I still thought the new ongoing series was a bit continuity heavy, I didn’t think it was a good jumping on point for new readers. It did get better past the opening, and now that we’re 12 issues in I think the books found its stride.

     Oh and I also hope it doesn’t get cancelled.

  27. Can’t somebody just post what happened in the other previous trades on here so I have a general outline of an idea about what is happening here.

  28. Now get on to reading Incredible Hercules. But get the third trade, Love & War. The first 2 are just ok, but the thrid trade is where all the fun’s at. I am going to go all hyperbole and say that Greg Pak is the best writer working for Marvel.

    Yes I knowit’s a Secret Sixarticle, but I can’t help but ask you to read the best book being put out by marvel.


  30. @muddi: What a fantastic idea. The ifanboys should totally read INCREDIBLE HERCULES. I mean next to Secret Six and Deadpool’ I think INCREDIBLE HERCULES is one of the most recommended titles on the site right now. That’s right, INCREDIBLE HERCULES I say.

  31. i followed this team through the villains united mini and i really enjoyed it. i liked them enough to pick up the second mini, which didn’t do anything for me. I gave the first issue of this series a shot and the feeling remained, so i dropped it.

    Catman kicked ass in Villains United though. awesome character

  32. Maybe I’m just not on the site enough but I remember when the first like 6 or so issues came out, everyone gushed about them, and now, I don’t hear much mention of the series.  Is it still as good or has there just not been a wham-bam-thank-you-mam issues lately?

  33. @Neb: Secret Six is still consistently one of my favorite books out there. #9, the Battle For The Cowl tie-in issue, being a particular standout.

    However, there are two things I honestly miss from earlier issues.

    For one thing, I still think it’s truly a shame that Knockout had to be sacrificed for that horrible and ultimately pointless "Death of the New Gods" crap, because she and Scandal Savage were my absolute favorite lesbian couple at a time when it seemed like the DCU was all of a sudden flooded with like fifty billion lesbian couples.

    The only other thing I miss is the old married couple-esque interaction between Catman and Deadshot. Since Deadshot hooked up with Jeannette, it seems like he and Catman never really hang out anymore.

  34. And while I do truly miss the relationship between Scandal and Knockout, I did think it was really sweet that the rest of the Secret Six >>OMGSPOILERALERT!!!<< hired a stripper to dress up like Knockout in order to try and cheer up Scandal.

  35. love this awesome series

  36. I was hoping that the Tarantula character would join the team.  I guess killing her off is more fun though?  Not really.

  37. I started this series at #1 having read none of the prior material and had no trouble following it. It’s one of the few DC things I actually read, and it’s something I really look forward to every month. This arc was immense amounts of fun, and I highly recommend if you want to enjoy silly DC goodness without investing in whatever universe-wide or Batfamily-wide crossover is sucking in all the other titles.

  38. @crucio – "disliking it vehemently?"

    That’s not how I felt at all.  My review was fairly similar to Ron’s if you went back and watched the show again.  I said it was good, just not for me.