Review: “The Secret” (graphic novel)

“The Secret”
Story/Created by Mike Richardson
Art by Jason Shawn Alexander

Major spoilers!

High school outcast Tommy is invited to a party by Pam, a girl who is out of his league. At the party, the kids play a prank call game involving passing around a phone and everyone dialing in one number until a complete phone number is entered. The kid who is left holding the phone has to call the number and when the other end picks up, they say, “I know your secret,” and then instruct the person to go to the park at midnight. Naturally, the kids manage to call someone who actually has a deep dark secret, and sure enough, when they all go to the park to presumably mock whoever was on the other end, Pam ends up abducted by the guy with the secret.

What follows is a fairly typical teens in trouble horror story, and predicting the outcome was painfully simple. Tommy just knows he can save Pam, but of course the cops don’t want his help because they think he’s a suspect. So he takes matters into his own hands, and by a sheer stroke of dumb luck, manages to find the spooky old farmhouse where Pam’s abductor has been keeping women tied up for god knows how long. I’m sure you can figure out the rest. People get killed for doing stupid shit that anyone who’s seen a slasher film would know not to do. Tommy manages to save Pam and take care of the bad guy, but doesn’t want the cops to find out. But guess what? At the end, he gets a phone call from a mysterious person saying – wait for it! – “I know your secret.” The final frame even includes the text “The End…?” The answer is YES.

To add insult to injury, the story does a lot more telling, as opposed to showing, than it needs to. A good graphic novel utilizes the images to tell the story, which is pretty much the point. But when one frame shows Tommy entering a room that clearly has a trap door, don’t have the character say “Hmm…a trap door.” We can see that. In fact, Tommy just talks too much. Maybe it was supposed to be a character trait, but he narrates his every action. Who is this guy, Marv Albert? It’s annoying and completely unnecessary in a GRAPHIC novel.

The one saving grace of “The Secret” is the art. Alexander has a style that works well for a horror GN, making it that much more disappointing that it was wasted on such a crapjob story. Avoid this one. If you want a GN that is far more disturbing, you’d be better off reading Grant Morrison and Dave McKean’s “Arkham Asylum,” and that one isn’t even touted as horror.

UPDATE: Apparently, “The Secret” is the first in a four-part series. However, I can say that based on an opening like this, I’m not interested in reading the rest of the story.

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