Here it is, the one we’ve been waiting for: the sixth issue of Secret Six! As we push through the revelation of the Riddler being Nightingale, the story starts to spell itself out in this arc-closing chapter–starts, and goes, and goes, and goes, till it finally flops to an end.
The problem you bump into with using the Riddler is that he’s meant to be this master wordsmith puzzle-genius power-brain, but most of the time (since authors are not general puzzle-genius power-brains) he just comes off like Kenneth in the next cubicle over who’s always doing sudoku, telling you how you should just quit sugar, and trying to school you on how no one really like–gets Tyler Durden, you know? Unfortunately the Riddler doesn’t exactly transcend here either. Nygma is goofy and long-winded, more pretentious than he’s earned. Catman sticks it to him, challenging his status as an “archvillain”. (Do they have that on their state-issued ID or something? how do you qualify?) This little pissing contest and Strix’s eventual ass-kicking of all of Riddler’s goons would be way more impressive if there was ever any reason at all to believe that the Riddler was a threat. And the clever twist at the end hardly feels twisty at all, a very weird, obvious ending for a book that has purported to be mysterious and clever and game-challenging. Spoilers below the image, so turn ye back if you would leave this place unspoiled.
When it seems like he’s beaten, Riddler pulls out his own “secret”, the fact that Mr. Dibny’s beautiful wife doesn’t remember him and was part of the Riddler’s game the whole time. Did we not see this coming? Dibny is one of the only characters who had any kind of nice part to savor and identify with, and there’s no way he would completely turn on his strays. (At least, not emotionally.) Of course his lady is in league with the Riddler, because why else would Dibny lead the Six into danger? He’s upset by the revelation that she would as soon kill them all as go with him, but he’s a big, sweet, dumb soul: it’s his job to howl like a baby and feel hurt. As a reader, it’s easy to buy that he was upset. It’s trickier to buy that no one else saw this coming.
On the plus side, it’s great that they pinned down the look they wanted to go for with this book fairly early on. The weird, dirty sitcom tone that Secret Six has taken on benefits immensely from the look that Eaglesham and Derenick have cultivated, as opposed to Lashley’s too-sexy-for-my-shirt thing that was happening in the first two issues. It seems weird to have Derenick close off the story arc, rather than having the more polished, pristine Eaglesham see things out, but Derenick isn’t afraid to push for that extra uncanny expression or pose, and that serves him well. What would serve him even better is to practice some decent looking suits. The Riddler’s weak presence wasn’t helped by his Onceler jacket and ambiguous “slacks”.
The first Secret Six story ends rocky with this issue, centered around a villainous genius prankster with no bite and no punchline. The saving grace and only real point of connection, for my money, is poor Mr. Dibny and his lost wife and at-risk surrogate daughter. Starting next month with issue #7 really seems too late to make me feel sympathy for the other characters in this book, but if anyone else can hook your heart nearly as fiercely as Dibny can, then this story might look up for me. Maybe a new setting, a new problem, a new villain will benefit these character when the next storyline rolls around.
Secret Six #6
Written by Gail Simone
Art by Tom Derenick, with colors by Jason Wright
Letters by Wes Abbott
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Upstate New York writer, reviewer and comics creator. For dates for “crying about robots”, “crying about Batman”, or “crying about jean jackets”, please check your local venue for the show near you!