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Frantic as a cardiograph scratching out the lines, Day 250: Secret Six #24

Every day this year, I will be examining the first pages of random comics. Today’s page is from Secret Six #24, which was published by DC and is cover dated October 2010. Enjoy!

There's nothing that screams 'Western 19th-century town' more than a Punch and Judy show!

I’m not going to get into how I don’t “get” this issue of Secret Six, in which Gail Simone drops our heroes into the nineteenth century and proceeds to kill them all, so let’s just check out the first page, shall we? Yes, even Bill Reed should check this out – how will he ever overcome his hatred of Jim Calafiore’s artwork if he doesn’t confront it?

Okay, so the Punch and Judy show. I know it’s possible that it might show up in the American West, but Punch and Judy seems like such an English thing (even though its roots are in Italy) that it’s a bit strange to see Simone use this device. Rag Doll is the puppeteer, and he’s a bit … off, so I suppose that explains it, but it’s still strange. But that’s what we get in Panel 1, as Peter Merkel does his weird foreshadowing with a dash of insanity. We think he’s talking about the person on the first page, but it turns out he has something worse in mind. Panels 2-4 show us dead men, linking back to the “dark man” and his “smell” mentioned in the first panel. Calafiore shows them up close so that the revelation of their killer can come on Page 2 (it’s Floyd Lawton, a.k.a. Deadshot), but also to show us that they’ve each been killed by a bullet right in the middle of their forehead – whoever killed them sure is a “dead shot”! The panels aren’t laid out in any interesting manner except that Calafiore goes back and forth with where he puts the bodies – left side, then right, then left. This is, presumably, because he wants to put Deadshot on the right side of the page in the bottom panel in order to lead us off the page, and he just reckoned upward from there. In the final panel, we learn that Deadshot is a bounty hunter. That’s handy.

Calafiore and Jason Wright make this page awfully dark, don’t they? The sun is setting, so that’s one thing, but it begins in the puppet theater, in which Punch and Judy are set against a black background. The first dead guy is looking back toward the sun, so he’s lit, but the Indian and the other white dude are in shadow, and of course Deadshot’s face is shadowed by his hat (where the light actually on his face is coming from is anyone’s guess; the sun is directly behind him). Calafiore has a thin line, so his hair always looks a bit stiff and brittle, as we see in Panel 3. In Panel 5, he decides to light up Deadshot’s right eyeball, giving him a weird, preternatural look. Calafiore’s inks and the close-ups in the final four panels actually make the page difficult to decipher at first glance, which might be the point – we’re supposed to stare at it for a while to figure out that Deadshot draped the bodies over three horses to bring them into town. Wright suffuses the final four panels with the yellow/orange of dusk, adding a sheen of olde-tyminess to the page while also foreshadowing the death and destruction that’s coming in this issue. Of course, the dead bodies already do that, but the fact that the sun is setting allows Wright to bring in that element of finality.

Travis Lanham letters this, and I don’t know what font he uses for Punch and Judy’s dialogue, but it’s pretty keen, innit? It’s a bit more cartoony than the other dialogue in the book, and it fits the rambunctious back-and-forth of the puppets. Plus, it’s slightly off-kilter, slightly more chaotic, which fits both the Punch and Judy aesthetic and Rag Doll’s mindset. Lanham is a pretty good letterer, and the way Punch and Judy talk is a nice touch.

I don’t know how well this page works to get us to turn to the second one – it’s not all that amazing, but it does have a nice feeling of foreboding, and perhaps that’s enough. Of course, it leads into a head-scratching tale, but that’s just the way it is!

You can still e-mail me at gregorymburgas@gmail.com if you have a suggestion for a first page for me to feature in October. I’m not too far ahead right now, so I have some time before I reach October. It would be nice if I could fill up the entire month with reader suggestions, wouldn’t it? So fire me an e-mail and I will be happy to write about your first page!

Next: If it’s a story from 2000AD, you can be pretty confident it’s by a highly-respected creator! Be sure to stop by to see who it is! You can certainly find him in the archives!

15 Comments

It’s DC not Marvel.

As David noted, you have a fairly major typo in your opening.

I also like that Punch and Judy are the Joker and Harley Quinn.

Damn, I miss this book.

Whoops. Thanks – I fixed it!

Stevonicus: Yeah, that’s neat. I didn’t mention it because I think it’s just an Easter egg – they don’t appear in the book at all, so I assume Simone and/or Calafiore just threw them in there for fun.

I can’t remember, was this issue ever explained? Or was it just some random “elseworlds” issue with nothing more to it?

Jazzbo: Nope, it was never explained. It was just left out there, oddly out of sync with everything else, being a random “elseworlds” issue. Bizarre.

I’m pretty sure this issue was just a fill-in on the schedule. Either that, or Simone really wanted to do a Western issue.

Whatever, I liked it.

Not gonna lie, I saw it was a Calafiore page and I immediately did a Ctrl+F and searched for my name. First paragraph. Sweet.

I miss this book so much.

Bill: We’ve been writing for this blog way too long, man!

I miss this book, too. So glad they’re doin’ that kickstarter. Even got Wright to colour it!

God, I miss this book — damn you, DiDio! — even the oddball one-offs like this just built the mythos of the Six being essentially doomed no matter what.

IIRC, the need for a one-off was due to Nicola Scott having family troubles at the time? I believe this was around the period where her mother died.

Calafiore eventually grew on me — whether that was like fungus or mold, I will leave to you — but this reworking of the first arc — a battle with Junior and an army of thugs — makes you take a longer view of the Secret Six story to find where it fits in. I don’t suppose it’s giving away anything to say this series ranks VERY high on my list in a certain ongoing poll…

Damn you, DiDio! DAMN YOU TO HELL!!!!!

BeccaBlast: Nicola was already gone at this point. #14 was her last issue.

Wasn’t sure when she left right off the top of my head — maybe it was on Wonder Woman that her family issues interfered with her working with Simone. Thanks.

Simone did hint that there was an explanation behind this issue, but I’ve always guessed it was just something like has been said above–the characters are eternally doomed.

Also: DAMN I miss this book!!!

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