You have to hand it to Jonathan Hickman, the guy can write a thriller.
Secret, the latest offering from the man who made the Fantastic Four interesting and gave us some of the better Ultimate stories, is a fairly fucked up read. Hickman manages to throw in some really solid plot twists, as well as taking some clichéd ideas and giving them new life. Nothing Secret does is pushing the envelope; it’s more of a style thriller, a modern day tale with some serious noir elements.
The story opens up in the middle of a late night attack on Robert Dunn, the CEO of a huge investing firm. Dunn’s attacker is a man in a ski mask who sets about torturing the CEO to gain access to his computer files. Dunn runs to his lawyer, William Gerry, a partner in the biggest law firm in Washington DC. Both of these men are power players, and both live in a world of secrets. Mr. Gerry excuses himself from Mr. Dunn to take a meeting with Steadfast Security Consultants, a company the law firm uses to find out the dirtiest of the dirty dirt.
In the meeting, we are introduced to Grant, the slick, super confident second in command of Steadfast. With him is Mrs. White, a cold blooded former FBI agent that now makes her bones by dismantling the security of major corporations. Grant and Mrs. White inform the mighty law firm that Steadfast broke into their security areas stole information and discovered dark secrets that could cripple them. Not to blackmail the firm, but to get hired, as its main security consultant. This show of chutzpah leads Mr. Gerry to ask Grant to assist Mr. Dunn with his masked assailant problem. Since this masked man got into Mr. Dunn’s computer, he can now enter the company’s mainframe at any time. Grant agrees to help Mr. Dunn but the end reveals a harsher truth.
Nothing happening in Secret is particularly original. The giant company, the huge law firm, the players getting played, the slick sadist who runs the shadowy security firm complete with cold bitch female agent, it’s all been done before. What allows Secret to rise above is how good Jonathan Hickman is. He has a love of word play so his dialog rings fresh. His pacing is perfect and his situations are just odd enough that the double crosses throw you a bit. You also have zero idea what will happen next, a nice change of pace for comics.
Interestingly enough, Secret’s greatest strength is its greatest weakness. With so much falling into the category of been-there-done-that, a lot of the success of this series rests on Hickman’s writing always being on point. If he slips up even a little bit, the whole thing becomes a checklist of other thriller plots. Granted this is Jonathan Hickman, but it’s still something to mull over.
The art from Ryan Bodenheim is solid and executed with a real eye towards cinema. Bodenheim uses color more as a gel over the eye of “camera” on each panel. The figures are black and white but the color scheme is different to match the emotion of each panel. It’s a very effective, in a minimalist way, of getting the story across. It’s brutal, slick, and very film noir. As of right now, Secret could go either way. It could travel a road to greatness or shit the bed entirely. Issue one gives me enough hope that I’ll move on to issue two.
(4 Story, 4 Art)