I have absolutely no idea what Hidden Society is about; I was only able to glean that it focuses on a hidden society based on the final page cliffhanger (and title). The first issue expends almost all of its space introducing a diverse cast of characters, each exhibiting distinctive magical abilities and a connection to New York City, but their individual motives and connection to the unclear premise of the series are essentially ignored. That leaves Hidden Society #1 as a familiar “getting the band together” sort of story, but one that forgets to mention why the band is getting together or even what sort of “music” they might play.
In spite of the lack of a clear hook, I found myself drawn to the issue and enjoyed re-reading it multiple times, even as it became more clear that I hadn’t simply missed the aforementioned hook. Each sequence exists independently before the many threads are drawn together in the final few pages, and that allows the many characters featured on the cover to stand out with particular personalities, traits, and even wide-ranging genre tropes. It provides something not unlike an anthology reading experience—pitching readers on new magical heroes in just a few pages.
That experience only works as well as it does because of artist Rafael Albuquerque’s versatility. His style is distinct, but it’s put to use in conveying a wide array of tones in Hidden Society #1. Each character’s introduction is accompanied with a very different scope and set of genre tropes, ranging from a dockside horror story to farce on a grand scale. In the former readers can sense the rising tension that accompanies the sense of an unknown threat in slowly stacking panels, while in the latter laughs are delivered in splashes and each page turn is used to great effect.
Albuquerque also provides distinctive character designs that offer as much information about each member of this hidden society as anything delivered in dialogue and exposition. Personalities shine through on each page, including those of non-human characters like a daemon and dog. You don’t have to wait for the twist at the end of each installment to realize that Mercy is a very dangerous person or Jadoo’s ambitions often overwhelm his abilities. They are instantly alive in these pages and that’s the reason Hidden Society #2 will be appointment reading for me, even though it’s unclear why all of these individuals have been gathered together.
Ultimately Hidden Society #1 reads more like an excerpt from a graphic novel than the first issue of a serialized story. It only does part of the essential work in introducing a new idea—detailing its cast of characters, but never outlining a central conflict or hook for what comes next. It’s incomplete and that will be to its detriment as some readers are left without a clear reason to look for #2 in one month’s time. However, taken as an excerpt, Hidden Society delivers a compelling introduction to a group of five idiosyncratic individuals. It’s lusciously illustrated and each segment is well told with a sampling of horror, humor, and plenty of what falls between those two poles. Hidden Society #1 offers excellent comics storytelling, even if it only manages to deliver an okay debut.
Published by Dark Horse Comics
On February 26, 2020
Written by Rafael Savone
Art by Rafael Albuquerque
Colors by Marcelo Costa0comments
Letters by Bernardo Brice
Cover by Rafael Albuquerque
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