by Gail Simone (writer), Peter Nguyen (pencils), Doug Hazlewood & Mark McKenna (inks),  Jason Wright (colors), and Travis Lanham (letters)

The Story: Floyd and Thomas aid a grieving father while Black Alice petitions for a spot on the team.

What’s Good: While I did find the last big Secret Six arc to drag a little at times, it’s clear that the series is back in form.  Simone’s one-shots and shorter arcs have often been strongest, and so it’s only fitting that we get a few of these to recalibrate the series.  It’s watching these demented characters operate on a day-to-day level that has always proved fascinating, especially insofar as how they approach an average day on the job or how they interact with each other under “normal” circumstances.

And make no mistake, Simone shows once again that she knows her way around “demented.”  The serial killer introduced at the start of the comic is a prime example.  That Simone is able to breathe so much life into a new, background character  is really remarkable.  In just a few pages, she manages to give this guy such a distinct voice, one that’s all kinds of creepy and twisted and will have you once again wondering how Simone gets away with what she does given Secret Six’s place in the DCU proper.

New additions to a team are always rightfully to be viewed with scrutiny, and Simone effectively proves this issue that Black Alice is not only a character who fits the Secret Six absolutely perfectly in tone and character, but she also convinces me that I’d want to see Alice on a monthly basis.  She’s esoteric, nutty, and odd coherent.  She fits so well and brings such vitality, that I’m surprised we’ve not seen her sooner in Secret Six.  It’s clear that she belongs here, and she already shows this month that she carries very interesting, and mostly hilarious, dynamics with every person on the team.  Her comments to Ragdoll and Jeanette are highlights.

In the end, Secret Six this month is everything the series should be: twisted from cover to cover, yet bringing the laughs throughout.  It’s the perfect balance of dark badassery and black humour, it adds a wonderful new character, and we even get a Deadshot/Catman team-up, a dynamic that has always proved fruitful for Simone.

What Not-so-Good: Peter Nguyen is not Nicola Scott, no matter how hard he tries to be.  For the most part, his emulation actually works.  That said, there’s only so much an artist can do to disguise his or her own quirks.  Nguyen does well in the opening scenes of comic, but it becomes increasingly obvious that his level of detail is not up to Scott’s standard.  Furthermore, Nguyen is one of those artists who seems to like to give every character a sharp, triangular jaw and it just doesn’t work.

The structure of the issue is also admittedly strange.  I almost feel as though Simone tried to cram two separate, only marginally related stories into one issue.  The scene with Thomas, Floyd, and the serial killer is too long to be a prologue or introduction, but it’s clearly not a parallel narrative or back up.  That said, while it’s weird in retrospect, it’s not really a fault, since despite all the pages spent on it, I somehow didn’t feel that Black Alice was deprived of page space.

Conclusion: Despite the lack of Nicola Scott, this was my favourite issue of Secret Six in a while.  Long live Black Alice!

Grade: B+

-Alex Evans