Gail Simone's Secret Six is always a fun and strange ride through the hazy grays of morality, and never have they had to face the inevitable result of their questionable choices so starkly as they do in issue #32, which puts them in hell itself, staring down one of their own in the quest to save another one of their own.
The mysterious "Get Out Of Hell Free" card, said to be forged by Neron himself, is at the core of the conflict – Scandal Savage wants to resurrect her dead lover Knockout, while Ragdoll would rather use it for his lost friend the Parademon. Since Scandal gored the deranged Peter Merkel over it last issue, the team learns that somehow their wicked little clown sidekick has become some sort of demonic demigod thanks to being born without a soul. He also happens to be in charge of a horde of demons that he has no compunction against siccing on his teammates in order to keep that card in his possession. Meanwhile, Catman has pulled his usual lone-wolf disappearing act and shuffled off with Etrigan to deal with his deep-seated daddy issues.
This book is always interesting if for no other reason than the characters always have such a crooked view of "the right thing to do." There's honor between them, but not really. They like each other, but not really. They're bad guys, but not always, and they often seem terrified by the idea that they might actually be friends, because that's always signified weakness to them. Case in point: the crux of Ragdoll's dilemma is that their teenage mage Black Alice has formed a bond with him, and as a result, he felt "that awful mixture of responsibility and pride in oneself," when he's always been a twisted freakshow who took pleasure in being as pervertedly wrong as possible. "I'm afraid I'm going sane." So he'd rather stay in hell.
Also fascinating is Bane's response to finding out he's going to hell with the rest of his crew – he's stunned by it, despite the terrible things he's wrought. They might use this to eventually explain whatever downfall they're going to force on him in order to get him back to sheer bad-guy status in time for The Dark Knight Rises to be released. Movies always trump comics, it seems.
Faithful readers of Secret Six have been clamoring for the return of Knockout, and they're finally getting it with gusto here. Simone is just deft at writing these characters who will literally go to hell to help a friend one minute and bite a guy's face off the next. There's a supremely dark irony going on here in that Scandal is going to hell and pulling this somewhat heroic effort towards reclaiming the woman she loved, all while the lookalike stripper she's currently dating is somewhere else, bound, gagged and trying to escape a psychotic fan threatening to pull some serious Women in Refrigerators stuff on her. 'WIR,' of course, being a term Simone coined about how off-putting it was to girls to see such gruesome treatment of women simply to give motivation to the male heroes. Are we going to see a woman get slaughtered to motivate a female hero for once? Does that make a difference? Or will the Six get back from hell in time to kick all sorts of ass on this freak?
Also, just as a general note, the relatively recent addition of King Shark to the team is a fantastic bit of loony-tunes that makes everything more entertaining. I'd never read anything with this guy in it before, but he's a hulking man-shark who will attack a giant eagle and yell "King Shark vs. Mega-Bird! Jaws 7: Even More Revenge!" before biting its head off. You can't NOT appreciate that.
Secret Six is a book I always look forward to, because you can never really see what's coming. You never really know how these people are going to respond to things, because they're so atypical of your standard protagonists. Plus, Deadshot might be the coolest character ever.