Deadly Secrets

"I couldn't have been more arrogant myself!" — Arturo, complimenting Quinn.

Review by Mike Truman


B
Really Good

When the comic series was started, co-creator Tracy Tormé indicated he wanted both the show and comic to be in the same continuum. Perhaps that was always wishful thinking; as both mediums moved along, they’ve been steadily drifting apart. The comics would reference the show, but the show never returned the favor. Narcotica introduces a deceased brother of Arturo whom he’s never spoken of and later episodes would rule out as all but impossible. Darkest Hour brings the quartet home briefly, an event of such magnitude you’d think someone would bring it up on screen every now and then. Here, in the final comic installment, the gulf in continuity is so wide it’s almost like reading about a parallel cast of Sliders.

We open with a flashback to Wade’s childhood. Invoking imagery reminiscent of Lyndon Johnson’s famous attack ad on Barry Goldwater, a young Wade is amongst flowers while her parents are gunned down by National Guardsmen. Do I hear the sound of a needle running straight across a record? What is this? Wade’s parents are alive and well back home. We saw them in Post Traumatic Slide Syndrome. Arturo complains that Wade never stops talking about them. How can they be dead? No time to argue; the four are about to be killed by the launch of a space shuttle!

They’re rescued by a group called Multibiz, only to be attacked by violent environmentalists, led by one Sullivan Wells. (“Welles” is misspelled throughout the entire comic, adding to the parallel feel.) The Multibiz team fends them off and escorts the four to the shuttle, where they are launched into orbit. New frontiers indeed!

Exhilarating as it is to be shot into space, it proves too much for Arturo. He suffers a heart attack of sorts upon their arrival at an orbital space station straight out of Total Recall. It’s a shoddy rust bucket, and when they finally get Arturo to a sick bay, Wade is shocked to find her alternate mother running it. She freaks out and runs away, forcing Rembrandt to follow while Quinn looks after the Professor.

Once Remmy catches up to Wade, we learn a brand-new backstory for her. The parents we know are actually her foster parents, her birth parents were peace and environmental activists killed at an anti-nuclear rally. Initially, Wade rebelled against hippies and immersed herself in the more conservative sciences, but she couldn’t overcome her own liberal streaks which formed the person she is today.

A series of misadventures leads to her demoralized mother regaining the fight in her and saving Wade and Rembrandt from the cold vacuum of space. Accepting Wade as an alternate of the daughter she’d lost at that same anti-nuclear rally, she takes her and the boys to her father back on Earth. It is here we learn that the wacko environmentalists are actually the good guys, and the “Green Thumb” scourge terrorizing the planet is a cynical ploy by Multibiz to trap consumers in space by employing a more refined version of the “captive audience” business model employed by movie theaters, ballparks, and airports.

It wouldn’t be Sliders without at least one shot at rebellion against the Man, and Wade launches a scheme where they burn a message the size of Brazil into the earth so that all those orbiting can see that they were tricked. Naturally, they believe the message without question and the masterful spin doctors of Multibiz who pulled off the greatest hoax in mankind stumble under the pressure. Oh well; it is a comic book.

Ultimately we’re dealing with two plots — the character plot driven by Wade and the action plot centered on the evils of unfettered capitalism. Sound familiar? It should. It’s Season’s Greedings in space. Given the gap between the show and the comics team at this point, it seems unlikely one hand knew what the other was doing. Still, it’s shocking that both mediums would write more or less the same story with the same beats independent of each other.

Unfortunately for “Deadly Secrets,” Season’s Greedings hit the air first and claimed all the territory for itself. What might have been a strained premise (Wade’s adoption) is now a ludicrous one. For the comic to work, you have to throw out your knowledge of the show and just look at the work in front of you. In that light, it’s a pretty solid effort.

The new Wade backstory is done well. There’s just something about the reunion of parents with lost children that tugs at you a bit. In Wade’s universe, she was broken by the loss of both parents. In this universe, it’s her parents who came undone. Her father became even more militant in his activism, trying to have some good come off his loss, while her mother withdrew into medicine. Unable to cope with their grief, their marriage ended. Wade’s return helps give them some closure, and vice versa.

The main story of a multinational corporation literally destroying the planet to make a buck should not sound so foreign. It’s just the logical extreme to actions already taking place today. In this sense, this comic does a better job of fulfilling the mission statement of the show than almost anything put on air during the third season. The trip into space is a nice touch, as is the return of Conrad Bennish, Jr. as an amoral scientist for Multibiz. He’s in character when he decides it’s too much trouble to save Rembrandt and Wade and orders his team to “Space Ghost their sorry backsides.”

Lastly, what to make of Arturo’s illness? Having knowledge of The Guardian going into this, I just assumed the storyline was being continued here after being mostly abandoned on-screen. However, a careful read has “Deadly Secrets” essentially replacing The Guardian as the first instance of the illness’s appearance. Quinn is shocked when he sees Arturo’s test results and Arturo admits that he’d known about his condition for some time but chose not to tell. Is it possible this segment was written completely independent of an episode that had aired nearly a half year before this book was published? Or was this an attempt at a parallel continuity bracing for the day when Arturo would be written out and replaced by Maggie Beckett? We’ll never know as this was the last story issued by Acclaim. At the very least, they went out on a high note.

Notes on the Artwork

Very well done and quite colorful. The four are still represented in their second season forms as Quinn hasn’t yet cut his hair nor has Wade dyed hers. The only nitpick is with Conrad Bennish Jr. The artist must not have been supplied a photo of actor Jason Gaffney and Bennish is instead represented as a blond guy with a receding hairline who looks absolutely nothing like the character.

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