Anyone who's read "Secret Six" before knows that the book can get a little grim and unpleasant for its characters. It's part of the package. But with the start of the new storyline, "The Darkest House," Gail Simone and J. Calafiore crank the intensity up to levels we haven't seen since the uber-disturbing "Cats in the Cradle."
It helps that a lot of this has been building since the start of the new series. The infamous "Get Out of Hell Free" card finally rears its ugly head again, Scandal's girlfriend Liana is put in a precarious position, and there's a strip mall that doubles as Purgatory.
Well, the last one is slightly silly. As is the awesome opening involving the characters filming an advertisement for their services (I especially appreciate that King Shark's listed talent is, "biting and chewing.") Considering how dark most of this issue is, though, it's nice to get a little frivolity to lighten the mood before things spin back into the dark.
Speaking of that, we've seen internal clashes among the team before, but this issue's eruption (over the stealing of the card that releases one dead person from Hell) seems a bit grimmer than most. Maybe it's Ragdoll's reminder that he's not a sweet and innocent guy that should be ignored. Maybe it's the lengths to which Scandal will go to get the card back. Or perhaps it's Ragdoll's hiding place for the card and a reminder just whom he'd use the card on to bring back.
At the same time, Liana's storyline kicks off and it's looking rather downbeat there as well. After being off to the side for a while, her reappearance here doesn't look good for the character, or rather her chances of making it through unscathed. Simone brings a level of malevolence to her kidnapper that even at a fictional level brings slightly uneasy reading.
And of course, next issue things promise to get worse.
Credit where it's due, part of the grim nature of this issue is thanks to Calafiore, who knocks the art out of the park again. From Liana's kidnapper writhing on the floor after his self-flagellation, to the scene of the team riding in the old fashioned elevator to Hell, every page of this comic is packed with emotion and darkness. It's impressive how something as simple as Lady Blaze's hair can look creepy.
Not convinced? Well, "Secret Six" is also the most-quotable issue I've read in a while. So much I don't want to give away any of the dialogue gems, but trust me, this book is on fire. Check it out.