I have to give Gail Simone and J. Calafiore credit: this is not even remotely what I was expecting in the new issue of "Secret Six."
The cover for this issue isn't a metaphor or euphemism. It, in fact, is set in the Wild West, as the members of the Secret Six each have new roles and positions and relationships with one another. From sheriff and gunslinger to tavern madam and puppeteer, everyone is simultaneously the same and different.
Imaginary story? Alternate reality? Prophetic dream? Echoes of the past?
I love that there's no moment where Rip Hunter or Booster Gold shows up and explains that this was all because of a rogue time warp, or a big glowing ball that is zooming around the background. What is it? It's a story, and one to sit back and enjoy.
More importantly, it's still the essence of each of our main characters, boiled down into these new lives. It says a lot about each member of the Six, as everyone is both themselves and yet different. Watching them interact with one another, and slowly coming together for the brutal second half, feels like we're seeing the Secret Six process sped up and distilled into a single story. Catman's final words of the issue sum up not only him, but the group in general. It's a perfect one-two punch of a finale. This is a deceptive issue of "Secret Six" that sneaks up on the reader.
The only real non-surprise is Calafiore's art looking as textured and excellent as always. From Slade's gruesome face (it's amazing how something so familiar can suddenly remind the audience about how hideous it can be) to the scene of Ragdoll hiding behind his puppeteer mask, everyone is carefully composed by Calafiore in a way that will be hard to forget. I love that Calafiore can draw both ragged and smooth depending on the character, a range that so few artists seem to show in comics.
"Secret Six" over the past two years has become a favorite book of mine, in part because it manages to take ideas and tactics that sound like they spell disaster, but instead end up coming across better than you can imagine. I'm already looking forward to year three starting up next month. Keep the good times coming.
(P.S. Someone in the cover department needs to learn how to spell J. Calafiore's last name. Oops.)