by Gail Simone & John Ostrander (writers), J. Calafiore (art), Jason Wright (colors), and Swands (letters)

The Story: It’s Suicide Squad vs. Secret Six as Amanda Waller decides she wants Deadshot back and won’t take no for an answer.

What’s Good: As an issue of Secret Six, this really is a lot of fun.  There’s a scene that brings the bizarre Bane/Scandal relationship to new heights, as Bane interrogates Scandal’s date and essentially acts like the girlfriend father from hell.  Meanwhile, Ragdoll of all people finds himself in the hilariously awkward position of being the voice of reason.  The entire scene is absolute gold, largely because of how deadpan Bane is through it all.

This month also marks the first time we see Black Alice in action as a full member of the team, and sure enough, she fits quite nicely, bringing a brash, utterly unsubtle element to the team.  Simone and Ostrander also bring back her diary narration, which is just as fun as last month.  Her perceptions of her new teammates are all really enjoyable, particularly her summary of Jeanette.

Beyond that, there’s a good amount of action and the opening shots in the battle between the Suicide Squad and Secret Six prove compelling.  The idea of Bronze Tiger vs. Catman is pure awesome.  Furthermore, the issue ends with Deadshot killing a member of the Suicide Squad in a manner that is so abrupt and unceremonious, it’s hard not to laugh, especially given that same character’s prominence near the issue’s opening.

Meanwhile, while Calafiore is no Nicola Scott, the artwork this month is far and away the best stuff we’ve seen from the series since Scott’s hiatus.  That said, it’s clear that Calafiore’s strength is in the fantastical elements: the giant Black Alice is great and Calafiore’s Black Lanterns look the perfect combination of horror menace and the bizarrely magical.

What’s Not So Good: There are two titles on the front of this issue, and neither of them is particularly valid.  As I said, this is a solid issue of Secret Six.  For the most part, the Suicide Squad really only take the position of being the latest set of antagonists for the Six.  There’s very little focus on them and we only see events from their perspective once in the whole book.  There’s next to know character development of the Suicide Squad characters, as Simone and Ostrander instead continue to focus on the dynamics and personalities of the Six.  This is basically an issue of Secret Six with the Suicide Squad in it, not the other way around.

But really, the Blackest Night tag is even more spurious than the Suicide Squad title.  We only get Black Lanterns in the first and last pages of the book.  For the rest of the issue, you’d have no idea that Blackest Night was even occurring.

This only makes those few Blackest Night pages feel all the more tangential and incongruous.  It’s clear that Ostrander and Simone just wanted to write a book about the Suicide Squad and the Six going at it, and so Blackest Night just feels shoehorned in.  In fact, what few black lantern-centered scenes there are feel completely detached from the issue’s narrative, as though they belonged to a completely different book.  Certainly, they have nothing to do with any of the book’s events.

Conclusion: A really fun Secret Six issue, but if you’re here for Blackest Night or the Suicide Squad, you may as well skip this.

Grade: B

-Alex Evans