Ah, they're an odd bunch, the Secret Six. Perfectly happy to maim and murder for money, but when it comes to the matter of slavery, qualms unexpectedly enter the equation. Last issue the team took the shilling of slimy Mr Smyth, Deadshot killed an escaping prisoner for him and now he explains his plans: to erect the world's biggest and only prison, a wonder of the world to be built by slaves.
But he's no abuser of the poor, Smyth is an equal opportunities slavemaster, keen to gather his workforce via lottery from all levels of society. God bless Ragdoll for pointing out to Scandal the ridiculous nature of her objections (click to enlarge). By the end of the issue the team's split down the middle on the matter, a stark contrast to the way they stand united against Smyth's men at the start.
In between we've met Artemis, the woman tough enough to have once taken Diana's place as Wonder Woman. She's in a sorry state here, shackled and physically weakened, but her spirit is strong. She won't stand for the courtly hypocrisy of Smyth's master jailer and tells him so calmly and intelligently.
This is one of the chattiest comics I've read in a while but it's not a matter of Marvel's Mamet mannerisms - every word is important in progressing situation or character. Writer Gail Simone's dials down the book's usual humour (Ragdoll stays snarky, but on point), leaving us a sombre tone appropriate to the subject matter. What we have, via the seductive logic of Mr Smyth, is a gripping examination of the place slavery could have in a post-credit crunch world. The ambition of ideas on display here is rare in mainstream comics and I can't wait to see where things go next - especially with the arrival of a certain heroine on the final page.
Issue after issue I praise the art team of penciller Nicola Scott, inker Doug Hazlewood and colourist Jason Wright and they don't let me down. They create powerful people in a richly textured world appropriate to the comic's refusal to paint characters in black and white. And if characters such as Scandal Savage and Catman appear in their skimpies along the way, hey, it's vital to the plot.
I'm not a huge fan of painted covers by Daniel Luuisi's portrait of Artemis enslaved is a winner. Let's hope he's on board for all five issues of Bound.