by Gail Simone (writer), J. Calafiore (art), Jason Wright (colors), and Travis Lanham (letters)

The Story: Secret Six becomes a western as Sheriff Scandal and her crew fight to protect a small mining town.

What’s Good: This month, Simone decides to place the Six in the Wild West.  It’s totally out of continuity and most of them don’t know each other.  It’s a wacky idea that I can’t help but wonder how Simone arrived at, but it works if only for its nuttiness.  After all, the Six is a dysfunctional comic as is; why not make it more off-kilter by randomly switching its genre while retaining its characters?  The comic ends up feeling like a kooky dream sequence or fantasy; I myself kept imagining, that somewhere, Ragdoll was passed out, drooling, in front of a TV playing late-night Western movies, a tray of bad sushi in his lap.

Part of the joy of this comic comes from seeing where our characters end up, how they act, and what roles they occupy in this Wild West world.  Scandal as Sheriff is a great choice, Deadshot having a glowing “dead eye” was a nice touch, and Ragdoll as the town fool was simply wonderful.  I adored Ragdoll’s Punch and Judy puppet shows, which were brilliantly, and manically, written.

But it’s not just where these characters, or their Wild West counterparts, wind up that gives rise to interest.  It’s also really fun to see how the character dynamics of the regular Secret Six continuity carry over, even when some of these characters are only meeting each other for the first time.  Deadshot and Jeanette end up in bed (sort of) with each other almost upon meeting, for instance, while Bane is violently protective of Sheriff Scandal and busts out his trademark backbreaker.  Then there’s the villain, Junior, who returns at her creepy best; it’s great to see her and the twins back in a comic again.

As isolated as this issue is from the rest of the series, the ending does still, in its message at least, feel somewhat related to a major theme of Secret Six.  It’s a tragic ending to be sure, one that’ll surprise a lot of readers and lets Simone make the most of this issue, but the last page really hits home with a poignant, touching line that subtly references the “real” series and what it’s all about.

What’s Not So Good: Without a doubt, this book is a giant “WTF.”  Why are we suddenly in the Wild West?  How did this happen and why is it happening?  This comes completely and totally out of left field and no explanation is ever really given.  It definitely feels very bizarre and a bit disorienting.

It’s sheer distance from the main series may also be off-putting to some given how we’re still stuck on the cliffhanger of the team being split in two.  If anything, seeing the team re-united again like this feels a little false given this.  It also seems a bit like thumb-twiddling and time filling while we wait to return to the main plot.  In being so detached from the series, and in being so utterly random, it’s hard not to see this issue as filler, even if it’s very good filler.

Conclusion: It may be strange and inexplicable, but it’s still a good time.

Grade: B

-Alex Evans