Review by Frank Plowright
Events elsewhere have loosed a marauder from another world on Earth, a combination of Batman and the Joker, known as the Batman Who Laughs. He’s the problem Batman and Superman face as they discover he plans to infect six heroes with the toxins that infected him. These are the Secret Six of the title.
Over several decades DC have gradually built Batman into a super-efficient predator who trusts his allies as little as he trusts his enemies, paranoid and prepared. Whether or not it’s your view of Batman is neither here nor there, as it works well enough with Batman confined to Gotham and his own supporting cast. However, when Superman intrudes into that world it opens up a can of worms. DC present their superheroes as realistic, but realistically, no matter how well prepared, Batman is no match for someone who could use heat vision from several miles up in the sky. And the same applies to the villainous Batman Who Laughs, which undermines Joshua Williamson’s plot, but not as much as it might. He comes up with some clever reasons the easy route isn’t an option, but fudges otherwise. Early on Superman meets a corrupted individual, and it’s even noted he uses his x-ray vision to comment on the state of their lungs. It’s unlikely, then, that he wouldn’t notice an infection at molecular level.
After an early encounter with a powerful hero corrupted by the Batman Who Laughs, Williamson has Batman and Superman needing to learn who else might have been infected, and that provides the suspense for the remainder of Who Are the Secret Six? The choices are good, as is the way Williamson unlocks the potential in some as their buried resentments are released.
The demands of the story require an artist able to deliver threat, power and grace, and David Marquez manages all of that with suitably chilling versions of transformed heroes, and a good Wonder Woman in the epilogue chapter. He’s visually creative, and the sequences told across a spread have a special appeal.
Once we reach the villain’s main objective the wheels come off. It’s one of those aims that sounds grandiose and evil, but doesn’t consider what happens if achieved. To Williamson’s credit, though, the terrible problem he’s set up isn’t easily solved at the story’s end, although, unfortunately it’s not solved at all in Batman/Superman and so anyone concerned about the fate of loved supporting characters and heroes has no resolution.
Who Are the Secret Six? has it’s moments, but the writing is inconsistent. Williamson’s dialogue isn’t always convincing, and a little more thought would have gone a long way. World’s Deadliest is next.