Written by Jonathan Hickman
Art by Ryan Bodenheim
Published by Image
Standing in the line we’re aberrations
Defects in a defect’s mirror
And we’ve been here all the time real fixations
Hidden deep in the furor-
What we do is secret-secret!
We’re influential guys for the D.C.C.
We can lie so perfect
And we’ve got a party line to every call
It’s a very short circuit-
What we do is secret-secret!
– The Germs “What We Do Is Secret”
Home invasion. Corporate Espionage. A shooting in London. Security firm blackmail. It’s not exactly a recipe for a whizz-bang sellout first issue for a comic book. Yet here we are. Secret is off to the presses for a second printing and comics are flying off the shelf. So how does it all stand up and work?
Actually Secret is rather sublime. There’s a grand sense of power, conspiracy, government and corporate mis-deeds reflecting the age that we live in. It’s engaging in the way that it throws you off in to the deep end, to see if you can swim in the sharks. It’s the world of Michael Clayton, but with a high-priced security firm instead of a fixer. Just as you figure it all out Hickman throws a bit of a curveball at the end. It’s a small reveal, a quick glimpse at the big picture. There’s something more than just a corporate bleed-out happening. There’s something evil about all of this. They pulled out a man’s tooth and kept it and planned to do something sinister. I immediately think of voodoo or genetic manipulation, but it could all very well be symbolic. Maybe they pulled out his fake cyanide-filled tooth so he can’t kill himself. That could point to some rather nasty business. Anyways, it’s always hard to figure out what to make of clues like this with a first issue, it’s a big speculation dart-board at this point.. Just have to wait and see if the diabolical dentistry amounts to anything substantially disturbing.
Secret is not without its faults however. For one, I can’t remember anybody’s name in the comic. I mean yes, I’m bad with names, but still… you need to be able to identify a character in order to feel something about them and the story. And I guess that’s the other thing. I could care less about any of the characters. The little details that brings a character to life and give them personality just aren’t there. Not yet anyways, I just don’t know them enough to form any kind of connection. I supposed we’re meant to feel sympathetic with the victim of the home invasion. He didn’t really have a “Save-the-Cat” moment where he earned it though, and frankly seemed kind of whinny and pathetic. The Security Firms goons have more fire and spark than him. They are shitheads, but at least have some kind of grit and interest. Mr. White Suit probably has some problems with violence and self-control and that could prove to be interesting. However Hickman is going to have dig deep and to get me to invest in a story about corporate douche-bags. Either a next level crazy plot (of which he is definitely capable of pulling off) or some serious character development is needed to keep me around.
Bodenheim draws an elegant Secret. He uses a modern thin line and adds depth and shadow in the coloring, in somewhat cell-shaded style. A reduced palette with two or three colors per page enhance the graphic designed nature of this book and makes it pop in a unique way. It reminds me a little of Frank Miller’s select coloring choices in his Sin City series. In this case it seems less symbolic and used more for a moody and psychological lighting effect. If you take a look at a movie like Blood Simple and you’ll get what I’m talking about. The tone and the intention of a scene are revealed in the colors used and the way it was lit. I haven’t seen Bodenheim’s previous work on A Red Mass From Mars, but his characters expressions kick ass here. The are very believable and the suit that gets his house invaded, you can see the agony and fear in his eyes. It takes a special kind of artist to pull that off . Well done sir. If there’s any weakness to his work I’d say that maybe the characters are too similar in facial appearance. Perhaps that’s why I’m having a hard time telling them apart. Of maybe that’s part of the theme ala’ American Psycho. Who do you trust when everyone is cookie-cutter clone with flimsy ethics?
There’s a lot of intrigue and mystery going on in this first set-up issue. It’ll be interesting to see if it veers off into super-science or stays in the land of conspiracy and lawfirm action. If Hickman pulls this off we could see a whole new wave Grisham-like comics popping up. As far as I know it hasn’t really been done before so I’m on board check out the first few issues at least, as this one was definitely worth my time.
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