When Secret History is done right, it’s a lot of fun. When done wrong, it’s ponderous and oppressive. When I heard Adam Glass was going to do a Secret History story for AfterShock Comics, understandably my hopes were high.
There are certain historical characters who seem like they should have been pulp fiction creations. Teddy Roosevelt is one of them. His biography by the late Nathan Miller, Theodore Roosevelt, A Life, reads like a high adventure novel. Born to wealth and debilitating asthma, his father send him out west where he became a cowboy, and even participated in a posse. When the sickly boy returned to New York, he was a strapping New American bursting at the seams with energy. He was a boxer, a rower, later a celebrated army colonel, naturalist, big game hunter and explorer. Forget the fictional Allan Quarterman, Teddy was the real deal. And this is besides his political achievements as New York Police Commissioner, Assistant Secretary of the Navy, Governor of New York and President of the United States. Oh, yes, he was also an accomplished author.
Adam Glass, whose Suicide Squad turned out to be one of the few bright spots in the New 52, and also wrote for the television show Supernatural, has now penned a Secret History with Teddy Roosevelt.
It’s about time.
At this point Secret Histories have become a genre. Historical figures are gathered together to fight some dread evil of super science, a supernatural foe or an alien invasion, all under the nose of conventional historians. The history reported in books is merely a cover story. What really did happen at the Battle of the Little Big Horn?
Here on the eve of the Spanish American War Teddy is enlisted by a cabal of America’s richest men to find out what really happened to the USS Maine. They have proof that the Spanish did not blow it up but Something Else did.
Glass understands that part of the fun is gathering the team and this takes two issues. What a team. Harry Houdini, Jack Johnson, Tom Edison, Annie Oakley and Edward Eastman. He also understands that the interactions between the characters is also why we are along for the ride. The scenes with Johnson and Houdini are great.
By issue three, the team is in Cuba and the action starts. While Johnson and Houdini have to contend with Spanish troops on one side and Rasputin on the other, Teddy and Annie attend a diplomatic dinner which turns decidedly undiplomatic.
Really good Secret History stories always provide a wink to the reader. This is where Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter, fell down. The book read like a ponderous biography and the movie was utterly joyless.
In Rough Riders, we have Jack Johnson duking it out with Rasputin, Teddy Roosevelt in a steampunk Iron Man suit, and Edison using electricity to, well, I won’t spoil that. Glass doesn’t cross the line into camp, but he does toe it.
The art is done by Patrick Olliffe and he does a great job. He’s an old pro who clearly is having a blast working on this project. He’s worked on Untold Tales of Spider-Man, Spider-Girl, Thor, Captain Marvel, X-Men Gold, 52, The Atom, Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman: 52 Aftermath The Four Horsemen, Catwoman, Barb Wire, plus The Avengers, Captain America Joins The Avengers and The X-Men for Disney’s Marvel Press. I love his Teddy, whom he captures perfectly without dipping into caricature. His other renditions seem more artistic then realistic, but I don’t have a problem with that.
Glass and Olliffe have definitely produced a winner. Buy it. Now.