3 out of 5
Directed by: Rory Karpf, Daniel Junge, Corey Frost, Jesse James Miller
I’m really just going to take umbrage at calling this the ‘Secret History’ of comics. Some of it, yes: covering the fascinating background behind Wonder Woman’s creation; discussing the creator’s rights issues behind Superman; some of the unfortunate squabbles behind the scenes at early Marvel. But some of it is really just historical – important, and well-handled history, but nonetheless – the history of Marvel; the rise and fall of Milestone – and some of it seems rather superfluous, such as the way a 9-11 episode is focused, and narrowing the path of indie comics and creative control to focus on Image because, duh, Robert Kirkman’s name is on this thing. By such a broad topic down to six episodes, the choices of focus seem strange, and to then pitch it as a ‘secret’ is just marketing. It also casts a conversational tone over the show that invites filler talking heads – celebrities who like comic books! Gosh! – when I would’ve taken more time dedicated to details.
All of this complaining aside, the series is definitely interesting, even for those already familiar with all of the topics; there’s nothing mind blowing for those in the know (or even those with a casual awareness of how these things went), but the show puts a very ‘human’ stamp on things that I feel would help to further legitimize the medium for those solely familiar with the MCU and whatnot (and I understand the celebrity chattering is part of that as well…). The reenacted bits are well shot, without the usual cheesy feeling that accompanies such work, and I do think the writers do a good job of keeping things balanced so it doesn’t just seem all Rah Rah all the time; this is where the ‘secret’ bit comes in, in accepting that comics are a business, and are subject to bad decisions by the people running those businesses sometimes. However, because it feels like we go from the Macro (How Marvel Started; How Superman Started) to more drilled down concepts (the shift in tone around 9-11; creators-first mentality), the series seems less structured as a season than it could have been.
A good time filler, but perhaps time better spent with those who are only peripherally involved with the medium.