Secret #3 is different from Hickman’s other works. It inherently contradicts the nature of just about every other comic he’s published. How does it do this?
It’s small scale.
Whereas The Manhattan Projects, Avengers, New Avengers, and East of West all relatively have grandiose, apocalyptic tones set for them built on the foundations of outlandish science fiction, Secret is a small-scale spy story involving security firms, forensic accounting, and coded databases that hold many, many secrets. There’s violence from time to time with the occasional assassination taking place here and there and fingers getting cut off (Issue #2) but for the most part, it sticks to a story that mainly revolves around cyber-crime and corporate secrets. And while the ending of Secret #3 alludes to something bigger (which has also been hinted at in previous issues), for the most part it’s not as big as Hickman’s other books. Hell, one of the key premises behind his Avengers run is, “we have to get bigger”. Not this book though. Secret is all about, well, secrets and what these secrets could do if they were to ever get out.
The central secret behind Secret is a secret account with billions of dollars put into it by the name of “Kodiak”. “Kodiak” is also referenced as a past event in some course by character Miles Steadman who calls it “a goddamn massacre” in issue 2. What the Kodiak account is actually for and what the event behind it actually is, is a mystery for now, but an intriguing one nonetheless. Hickman keeps adding dense, subtle layers to the plot that keeps the core mystery consistently intriguing. Every piece of dialogue, every little art clue, and every page is a relevant key to unlocking the mystery. And while the story is definitely on a smaller scale, there are too many players involved for the stakes not to be high. This is a different kind of ominous apocalypse than the ones in Hickman’s other books. This is the kind that will hit these guys where it hurts; their wallets.
Hickman’s spy story is intriguing because it doesn’t resort to typical spy heroics. The “spies” aren’t portrayed as heroic either. Most, if not all of them, are morally ambiguous and will do whatever is necessary. The characterization has layers in that while each one of them feels cold and morally gray, they still feel entirely human and believable. Nothing is actually out of place here.
Bodenheim and Garland are a stellar art duo, with Bodenheim on pencils and inks and Garland doing the coloring. While it has been stated that Bodenheim was a main part of the reason for the delay between issues (#2 came out in June 2012), the wait has been worth it. The stellar amount of work he puts into everything, from the environments to the wrinkles on the skin to even the facial expressions, is just worth staring at for minutes on end, even when it’s obscured by speech bubbles. Garland’s coloring, while not to everyone’s taste (I’ve talked to people who decry for not being colored traditionally), is unique in that it evokes the mood of separate scenes. Striking greys and reds for particularly intense scenes, and yellows and orange-red’s for particularly emotional scenes, and so on. Its bit exactly traditional but it keeps things emotive and unique.
With #3 finally out, and #4 well on its way towards store (Hickman has stated that the art is already done for it and they are working on #5) the book is back on track to coming out at a regular pace again. Hickman’s story is intriguing and strong without having to be incredibly large and outlandish, and the art is on a phenomenal level. I recommend picking up Secret #3 and the 2 back issues prior.