Rating: 4/5 – Juicy Secrets Revealed That Are Sure to be Trouble Later.
by ComicSpectrum reviewer R.C. Killian
In my own world, Jay Faerber’s name is instantly, automatically, and forever associated with Noble Causes. During my first foray into gloves-off experimentation with books to read about a decade ago, my interest in Robert Kirkman’s Invincible had someone tell me to look into Faerber’s creation, after I admitted freely that the soap opera-like arcs of character were one of the biggest draws. “It’s literally intended as a superhero soap opera,” I was told, which made me somewhat wary—usually such things, unless you’re a literal fan of soap operas, are best left as a “coincidence”. I shouldn’t have been wary, though—I was hooked almost instantly. That book is the reason that I decided to check out Secret Identities, sight unseen. Well, beyond the cover, anyway.
Faerber and co-creator Brian Joines open mid-battle on a character who is clearly waiting to enter a fray happening just off-panel, which we’re introduced to on the double splash on pages 2 & 3 (with a sprinkling of panels at the bottom to keep the story moving and the introductions a little cleaner and less forced). We meet each of the Frontliners—our book’s super team–over these two pages and the next: Our opening character Crosswind, plus Punchline, Luminary, Helot, Vesuvius, Recluse, Gaijin, and Rundown. It’s not an old-school, “Let me awkwardly insert a description of my powers as I state my name clearly and openly”, but enough of an idea is given to feel comfortable with them as superheroes. They’re battling Perdition (who, I cannot emphasize enough, is almost unquestionably intended to look like Alan Moore, almost to the point of distraction), who has unleashed a horde of demons on Toronto. Having established the superheroic element, we get the meat of the book that inspires the title: all their secret identities.
The art of Ilias Kyriazis and the colors of Charlie Kirchoff really worked for me on this book: bright, colorful, and with appropriately melodramatic, expressive faces. Their work really bolsters the story in terms of building up the metaphorical bombs under the table in each character’s life, keeping the feeling that the dangerous secrets aren’t yet a problem, but very easily could be, with the support characters for each also comfortable—for now!—with the status quos. Because stories like this tend to be heavily predicated on big, visual revelations (there may or may not be one here!), it’s important to have an art team that can regularly re-create an appearance so that you don’t miss such things, and Kyriazis and Kirchoff seem up to the task.
This is familiar territory for Faerber, at least in light of the aforementioned Noble Causes. He and Joines do a great job of setting up a brand new team of superheroes with the same kind of gusto that book had, superheroes who we’re convincingly told have a lot of backstory, without sitting us down for the lot of it. The structure—introduce the super team, introduce a core conflict, and seed each of the characters with a secret identity that can’t end well—is just the right kind of enticing for anyone who is looking for a book to alternate between tense teasing and explosive revelations, exactly as intended.
Reviewed by: R.C. Killian
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