Reading the current storyline in "Secret Six," I find myself wanting to buy extra copies and send them to numerous creative personnel (both in comics as well as other medias). On each would be a post-it note, explaining that there's a right and a wrong way to do a dark and grim comic without coming across exploitative, and that this should be the template for the right way.
"Cats in the Cradle" comes to a conclusion this month, and to say that it's not all coming up roses is an understatement. Reading previous issues of this story, it's been hard to not see bad things on the horizon for all of our characters. Not only is Catman going down a twisting road with his attempts to find justice for his kidnapped son, but the tensions among the rest of the group are continuing to rise as everything threatens to explode. And here, finally, it all has come to a head.
What impresses me is how Gail Simone makes "Cats in the Cradle" (and "Secret Six" in general) dark without kicking the reader in the teeth. Bad things happen, and are still happening, but you don't feel like you've been dragged down with them. This group of villains and anti-heroes is full of people that you ultimately pity, not loathe. So even when Black Alice finally turns on Scandal Savage, you don't hate her. She's confused and upset and scared, and as we finally learn some more about Alice's life it's hard to not feel bad for her. At the end of the day, you want to see her somehow rise above the darkness in her life.
With that in mind, it's interesting to see Catman's story come to a conclusion this issue, and the choices that he makes. "It's too late to save him," one of the characters notes. "Could any of you do that? On purpose? To anyone?" Simone recognizes just how nasty a story she's told about a character who's been with the group all the way back to the "Villains United" mini-series, and while it's very possible that she still has more up her sleeve with him, if this is his last hurrah it's a powerful way to do so.
I've said it before and I'll say it again; J. Calafiore is a great addition to "Secret Six." I've loved his art for years (back to his Valiant Comics and "Aquaman" issues) and I think he has exactly what it takes to draw "Secret Six." His art is energetic and dynamic, and while there's a certain grimness to his art, he's able to draw a more open and innocent looking style when needed (seen this month in the young Catman flashbacks). The moment that got me this issue with Calafiore's art, though, was Black Alice's tear-stained face as she reveals to the rest of the team her greatest mistake. It's a face that sad, and crushed, and utterly defeated. Calafiore absolutely nails that moment, and it's hard to not feel bad for her in that exact moment.
It wasn't until after finishing this issue that I realized that one storyline (Bane and Jeanette) doesn't appear in this issue at all. There's so much happening that there really wasn't room for it, and I'm glad that Simone wasn't afraid to set them aside for a month to focus on the bigger stories. This was a thoroughly gripping issue, and I appreciate the ride that Simone and Calafiore brought us on. Read this book, people.