If The A.V. Club were giving out an award for Most Improved Comic of 2015, Secret Six would be a top contender for the prize. (We’re not, but you can read our Best of Comics 2015 lists right here.) The series had a very rocky start with a lackluster debut and delays on subsequent issues, but since the start of DCYOU, Secret Six has done some major course correction with new cast additions, big reveals, and more consistent artwork. The most significant improvements have involved writer Gail Simone embracing more elements of her classic Secret Six run in the pre-New 52 DC Universe, bringing back the most popular cast members of that series while also giving the new book a stronger connection to the larger DC landscape.

The current storyline involves the Secret Six getting in the middle of an attempted invasion of Earth by mythical Elder Gods, resulting in a slew of magic-based guest stars like Deadman, Zatanna, and Swamp Thing. The Secret Six’s meddling has led them to Atlantis, which naturally means an appearance from Aquaman, who immediately fights Catman because fish and cats don’t get along. (It also gives Simone the opportunity to pit two of DC’s hunkiest characters against each other, so expect some innuendo from their brawl.) Simone is taking greater advantage of the scope of the DC Universe in her story, and it’s helped the team become a more prominent presence.

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While past issues have had Tom Derenick sharing art duties with Dale Eaglesham, Derenick goes solo for Secret Six #9, maintaining the thicker, more textured inking he used to make his art look more like Eaglesham’s. Derenick’s layouts are more conventional—ideally Derenick would be doing finishes over Eaglesham’s layouts— but his storytelling is clear and he handles the tonal jumps in Simone’s script smoothly. Jason Wright’s coloring adds even more texture to the linework, and this art team’s clean visuals are a big reason why Secret Six has grown so much over the past year.

Cover by Dale Eaglesham and Jason Wright

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