writers: Jay Faerber, Brian Joines / artist: Ilias Kyriazis / Image Comics
Any time I begin a new series I’m inherently skeptical. As much as I love comics, I still can’t shake the worry that comes with spending a little time and money on something with the chance I might not like it. The result is staring at the book’s cover with suspicious Fry-face for at least 5 minutes before the doubt turns to excitement and I get started. Such was the case with Secret Identities, a new series from Image highlighting a brand new super hero team.
The series follows a story arc with which we’re all familiar – there’s a mole inside the good guys – yet it’s telling the story from the perspective of the mole and their initial infiltration of the team. It’s an interesting twist on the trope considering that almost all the mole-stories I can think of highlight the good guys, but also begin long after the mole has gained everyone’s trust, only to turn on their heel at the end and reveal themselves as the traitor. Secret Identities starts with that initial infiltration of Crosswind, the character setting out to break the Front Line team of heroes from the inside, and we can expect a long journey of lies and maneuvering before the team trusts him nearly enough for him to hurt them.
Feel gimmicky? Not so fast. It’s actually quite brilliant as a major theme of the book, and feels more gimmicky the way it’s regularly used on popular shows, movies, and books. Consider some of the most popular spy stories; traitors are either used as a tool to prolong a story (à la 24), a cheap twist to surprise audiences (à la Mission: Impossible), or both. In most cases they discount what it took for the mole to become the mole: having to navigate with lies for weeks, months, or even years before their cathartic betrayal scene.
Secret Identities also has the diversity game on harmonic levels. In a team with this many characters it can be hard to give each of them their due development (see: Wolverines), but the first issue of Secret Identities leaves little doubt that Faerber and Joines plan to try. With some bouncing around, the series manages to introduce each member of the Front Line, including some heavy introductory backstory for each.
When I saw Rundown’s double life, for example, I stood and applauded the page. Presenting a “good guy” using his powers for such creep-level manipulation shatters the overused black-and-white perception of hero and villain, and humanizes them. And that’s the second theme behind Secret Identities: heroes are people. I expect a series less plot driven towards saving the world, and more character driven to unpack how this lifestyle can affect a person.
Overall, I’m excited about what this series is trying to accomplish, and issue #1 is a great start to those ends. Highlighting the mole’s journey offers a perspective we don’t see enough of, and comics might be the best medium to tell such a story. The best example of that character focus told over a long period of time might be Vic Mackey on The Shield, including the penultimate scene of him confessing everything he’d done after 7 seasons of theft, lies, and murder. Secret Identities is also playing the long game, and I look forward to reading them blaze their own trail as a superhero comic’s take on the web of lies.
Score: 8 out of 10