writers: Jay Faerber, Brian Joines / artist: Ilias Kyriazis / Image Comics
We’re back on the Front Line with Luminary, Helot, Punchline, Gaijin, Recluse, Vesuvius, Rundown, and Crosswind. That’s right – 8 names holding it down on this, the second issue of a series. Managing such a large cast is a tall order, and it comes with some difficulty for readers trying to wrap their heads around the characters and their stories, but Faerber and Joines do about as well as possible with their choice of this many heroes. Where they excel is giving each character their own distinct voice, genuine dialogue, and clearly thoughtful backstory; the downside is the 2-3 maximum pages that can be attributed to any given character, selling them short and making for a scattered experience where readers quickly jump from Recluse and Gaijin fighting a smuggling operation, to Luminary and Punchline talking in the White House, to Helot and Vesuvius sparring back at HQ. It can feel a bit much, yet the fact you’re so interested in learning the characters more is a good sign.
The early frontrunner as the game-changing character is Recluse, who is skeptical of Crosswind and blatantly distrusts him. He’s the closest thing to Rorschach, except I think he’s powered by eating people, and he seems abusive to his wife. That’s right, he was almost your favorite. Still, you can’t help but love his bluntness. When Crosswind was first invited to headquarters, Recluse was still wearing his mask, like
“What? You thought I’d trust you with – HOMIE I DON’T KNOW YOU!”
A few days later Crosswind tries to join him on a mission and touches Recluse on the arm as a friendly gesture that was 2.3 seconds away from getting his arm broken off. You couldn’t see it because of his mask but Recluse had to close his eyes and remember his Taiwanese yoga training and breathing exercises to keep his chill. He was picturing waterfalls and rainbows before managing to reply. There was a full 90 seconds of awkward silence that passed between panel 1 and panel 2:
Recluse and Gaijin go out together to stop a smuggling ring, leading Recluse to share his thoughts about Crosswind with her, followed by some rather gory action. The panel layouts continue to be fun and creative in this comic and both issues have had a fairly heavy share of short, fun action scenes. Gaijin’s long and agile fighting style was fun to see alongside Recluse’s Krav Maga-type brutality. Although I wish Gaijin’s costume design were more than two strips of athletic tape strapped around her breasts and shoulders – someone should really rethink that.
Crosswind’s plot hasn’t yet gained legs, as he’s joined the Front Line team but has to earn his new teammates’ trust. Issue #2 doesn’t progress his infiltration at all due to the screentime needed for all the other characters’ development. Hopefully the wait won’t be long until the plot focuses more narrowly on Crosswind’s sabotage, not only because it’s the point of the comic, but more because character development won’t be enough to anchor this series if all the characters continue with relatively equal prominence.
Despite the broad cast spreading development a little thin, Secret Identities is a title worth reading, and I hope the diverse cast ends up paying off well with all its characters. Some of my favorite titles are those with so many characters I found it hard to keep up, but once I was caught a grasp of them I appreciated their depth (The Wire and A Song of Ice and Fire come to mind as the most obvious high-level examples). The test for Faerber and Joines will be to progress the plot and simultaneously teach us enough backstory to love their characters.
Catch up on the first review of Secret Identities‘ opening issue here.
Score: 8 out of 10