Writer: Gail Simone
Pencils: Nicola Scott
Inks: Doug Hazlewood
Colors: Jason Wright
Letters: Travis Lanham

Between the two major villain-centric titles being offered by Marvel and DC, it’s impossible to pick the better series. Thunderbolts consistently delivers a stunningly realistic look at a band of covert operatives under the leadership of Marvel’s top bad guy, Norman Osborn. And Gail Simone’s Secret Six brings the deft characterization and philosophical discussions of villainy that a guy like me really grooves on.

This week, it’s character over story as Secret Six bests the T’bolts with a delightful story of Catman, Bane and Ragdoll thwarting a planned series of kidnappings in Gotham city out of respect for the fallen Batman.

All the while, they have a thinly veiled discussion about the possibility of either Catman or Bane replacing the Dark Knight in Gotham.

As Ragdoll, dressed as Robin, interjects hilarious asides.

This is a beautiful issue. Scott and Hazlewood even work in nod to the 60s TV series with a “sideways-rapelling-down-a-building-on-a-batrope” scene.

As they thwart kidnapping after kidnapping, Bane and Catman discuss the very meaning of villainy in a comic-book world — and how closely these two villains are to ascend the role of the Bat. But appropriately enough, their actual words as in opposition to their thoughts, as they discuss how much they don’t want that to happen.

Their vicious treatment is expertly played against a backdrop of saving children, which Simone expertly plays to its full heart-string-tugging potential.

In the end, their final thwart is intruded upon my Nightwing, who reads them the riot act and tosses them out.

Catman: “What we did was right. You can’t tell me otherwise. But I hear that sneer. And I hear that contempt. And I remember why I hate those little dictators.”

Bane: “They define us because we have always allowed them to do so. They are both our motivation and the architects of our descent.”

I respectfully submit that you’ll get no better in-story discussion of comic-book villainy anywhere in print.

In print.

Get Secret Six #9 at mycomicshop.com