“Secret Identities” #1 credits writers Jay Faerber and Brian Joines as well as artist Ilias Kyriazis as series creators, which seems only right as the trio collaborates nicely for a strong debut of Image Comics’ newest superhero team. Opening with a mysterious figure brooding atop a building in downtown Toronto as the sounds from a nearby battle spill into the background, this comic drops readers in at the deep end.
Faerber and Joines don’t leave readers in the deep end for too long, though, as they organically introduce the members of the Front Line to readers through the course of the battle. The leader of the team is Luminary, with light-based powers. The rest of the team is comprised of Vesuvius, a “human lava lamp” and walking cross between the Thing and Brimstone; Helot, a cybernetic centurion; Gaijin, an acrobatic swordsmaster; Recluse, a clawed, many-eyed combo of Batman and Wolverine with a dark, disturbing secret; Rundown, the requisite speedster; and Punchline, a quip-slinging brawler who leads with her mouth. The mysterious figure is Crosswind, an armored hero with his own agenda. The team battles Perdition, the summoner of the demonic hordes fighting against the heroes in a grand double-page drawing from Ilias Kyriazis and colorist Charlie Kirchoff.
Kyriazis’ art is a snappy blend of Mahmud Asrar and Norm Breyfogle’s styles with fine details and expressive, strong characters moving through the panels. The characters each carry themselves in such a way that makes it quite clear to the readers who each character is regardless of whether or not they are shown in costume; the artist gives each character plenty of personality to shine through any outfit they wear. Working in concert with his colorist to fill the pages with bold, heroic imagery, Kyriazis uses a healthy mix of panel shapes and sizes, chopping up the pages and guiding the reader through the story on polished stepping stones. Ed Dukeshire’s letters cement the panels together and balance nicely around the artwork, giving Kyriazis’ drawings and Kirchoff’s bright colors plenty of room to play. Kirchoff keeps the palette vibrant but has plenty of space to add in effects, from the billowing smoke pouring off of Vesuvius as he appears to scorch the air around him to the hazy distant skyline in the establishing shot that opens the issue.
Faerber and Joines could have given readers an epic struggle and bounced each character’s name around a few times during the struggle by way of introduction, but the duo makes “Secret Identities” #1 work a little harder to be accessible and enjoyable. As this is a superhero comic book, the writers provide plenty of action and adventure, but they balance that with two-page vignettes of each character away from the rest of the Front Line, just to provide some more depth and detail for readers to latch onto.
By the end of “Secret Identities” #1, the creative team realizes the readers might be getting a little pruny in the deep end, so they drain the pool out from underneath them. The last page reveal is a surprise but, when the reader hits that point in the comic, they’ve already processed a couple other surprises. Faerber, Joines, Kyriazis, Kirchoff and Dukeshire make sure “Secret Identities” #1 brings everything a new comic should: action, adventure, intrigue, visually exciting characters and a story that moves. It all comes together nicely, giving readers yet another solid offering from Image Comics.