What if a superhero team-up book wasn't about the characters dealing with big threats and punching evil-doers in the face? What if it focused primarily on fleshing out each of characters on the roster while offering some commentary on modern society? And what if you still had that big action, but it limited to just an enjoyable double-page spread or two? Well, you'd get Image's SECRET IDENTITIES.
The debut issue really won me over. Each character had my full attention and I was left wanting to learn more about them and I was wondering whether they'd discover what their teammates are up to. While this second chapter isn't as gripping and fascinating as the first one, Jay Faerber and Brian Jones still have me hooked. Once again, they're able to juggle a pretty big cast of characters very well. There's so many different things going on in this title, but thanks to a hugely satisfying and informative opening chapter, it doesn't feel overwhelming. Instead of the jump from character to character seeming jarring or random, it's something you want to happen. No matter how interesting one character's arc may be, you're still left wondering about the others in the back of your head. Now, obviously they can't give equal love to all of these characters -- there just isn't room for that -- but they managed to humanize a few and put others on exciting paths; paths which have me anxious to see where it'll lead them. There's plenty of solid jokes and charismatic characters, yet this doesn't come off feeling like a comedy. (I thought it was hilarious one character said it's Wednesday in their world.) There's dark action, yet it doesn't feel like a gritty or bleak comic. The two incorporate many different tones and one never overshadows the other. The end result? A very entertaining comic that appeals to me on so many different levels.
Ilias Kyriazis' pages are consistently satisfying. For a comic like this, you really need to energize these individuals and make them feel alive. Otherwise, the script is going to be totally hindered because it's attempting to flesh out static and lifeless characters. Thankfully, that isn't the case. The opening scene shows this especially well and the expressions are exactly what you'd expect from each person. Whether it's anger or curiosity, you can often tell exactly what's going on in a characters' mind. Attention to this obviously fluctuates when pages become more crowded, but that's okay because the style finds other ways to catch your attention. The two action scenes have seriously wonderful double-page spreads and I enjoyed the way each setting is presented. There may be two colorists (Charlie Kirchoff and Ron Riley), but the transition between the two isn't all that noticeable and both do a fine job enhancing Kyriazis' panels. Both are also given more than a few opportunities to impress. The former has a scene that's full of different powers; the later has some standout scenes which take place at night and they put lighting to good use.
It's a little difficult to get very excited about the three big teasers because we're still so new to this universe. One seems to imply a ginormous threat is on the horizon and it seems like the other will generate a new one, but considering we're still getting to know the characters, I can't help but feel like those big moments aren't nearly as interesting as the character-driven scenes. We'll just have to wait and see how they play out. And while the character-driven bits aren't as gripping this time around (there's something special about seeing what makes each unique the first time around), they're still able to give us a better insight into many of the characters and the chapter juggles most of them pretty well. Some outshine the others, but that's to be expected, of course.
SECRET IDENTITIES is a great way to escape the traditional superhero stories we tend to see. I'm left with literally no idea about what'll happen with each of them and I absolutely love that. It's not overly dark and gritty and it's not too focused on making you laugh. It strikes a nice balance as it offers totally different characters and all different kinds of tones. One minute two characters will be having a lighthearted back and forth conversation, the next some Batman-ish character will be fighting crime and investigating something. It has so much to offer and it's full of promise as we learn more and more about these individuals. Sure, there's huge threats on the horizon and that could make it soon feel more like a traditional superhero title, but right now it's clear this series is all about giving us several rich characters and just enough action, hilarity, social commentary, and intrigue on the side. SECRET IDENTITIES may seem like yet another superhero team-up comic, but give it a chance and you'll see it does more than enough to stand apart from the crowd.