When I first heard about the line up for Secret Six, I was totally jazzed. It had my favorite Batman villain of all time in it. The quirky Cat-Man (– that’s with a hyphen, by the way, Ms. Simone!) somehow captured my interest and I scrounged every single issue he had ever appeared in.
The Cat-Man was a carbon copy of Batman (that’s without a hyphen), except his theme was cat-stuff, not bat-stuff. In his origin, it was revealed that Cat-man thought he had magic powers derived from a special fabric he found. He thought that it provided him with uncanny luck. He could jump from buildings. He could dodge bullets. Just because he thought he had a magic cape. This belief baffled Bats. It was clear to the Dark Detective that Cat-Man’s cloak was just a piece of fabric, and again and again, he did indeed prove that to be true to Thomas Blake, Cat-Man’s alter ego.
Blake’s belief in a reverse-placebo effect kept reigniting, and he kept venturing out to square off against Batman. His usual target, like that of Catwoman, was to perform cat-based crimes. He stole tigers. He hunted down cat’s eye gems and the like.
Over time, it was pretty clear that Cat-Man wasn’t even a has-been. He was a never-was.
A year or so prior to Villains United, he showed up in the pages of Green Arrow where he was humiliated once again and seemingly sent off to die.
But then, the Secret Society came knocking. They wanted his help, but he wasn’t interested. So, as villains do, the Secret Society arranged to hurt Blake — not physically, but in the mind.
So they killed his adopted family — a pride of lions.
This was just enough to vault Thomas Blake into the big time. He leapt from the F-list to first-class badass. He also went from being Cat-Man (with a hyphen) to Catman (a la Batman).
It was in the pages of Villains United that Blake proved his mettle.
But along the way, I kept wondering about his achilles’ heel — his belief in the magic. But it never showed. Not a peep. Not a mention.
I figured that maybe he was keeping his lips sealed. The less you brag about your magic cape, the less likely people are going to target it.
And now, from the pages of Villains United, we have Blake’s group, the Secret Six back in action.
In it, Blake leads the squad into Asia to rendevous with Deadshot, who’s in the middle of a hit.
And what’s Catman wearing? A Catman suit the color of a Siberian tiger. His trademark orange cape was gone. His “magic” power? Who knows.
I’m a bit disappointed, but I’m not too upset. I fully expect an explanation to show up some time. Writer Gail Simone will come up with something, and I’m waiting.
Oh. You want a review of the issue too? OK. Sorry about that.
Secret Six No. 1 brings the group, comprised of Catman, Deadshot, Rag Doll, Knockout, Scandal, and uhm, well there’s only five of them at the moment, but they add one more at the end — but only after losing one. It’s not a good way to build a team, but they’ve got five issues to get up to a full compliment, so I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt.
Anyway, the issue is a good one. It once again proves why the protagonists are villains themselves while other villains work against them. The question is: Who’s the worst of the villains? The maverick Secret Six or the highly organized group known as the Secret Society?
It’s the ultimate question in a book like this, and writer Gail Simone has a clever style that lets you root for the lesser of two evils. Artist Brad Walker is a fine help on the book, rendering real-life (a North Korean detention camp) and the surreal (the home of the surprise guest-star at the end of the book).
In particular, Simone has a great handle on the swaggering machismo her stars exude. She’s got a handle on the tough guy, and that’s what makes the “Secret Six” worth checking out.
SECRET SIX No. 1 (July 2006)
Written by: Gail Simone
Art by: Brad Walker
Two out of Four Stars (I’m holding back giving a third and fourth star until I get the low-down on Catman’s makeover. Sorry, it’s more of a grudge-based rating than a quality based rating. Sue me.)