Tuesday, 8 April 2014

Comic Review - The Secret Service: Kingsman

By Mark Millar, Dave Gibbons and Matthew Vaughn

Published by Titan Books


"Gary’s life is going nowhere. He lives in public housing with his mother and spends his nights carousing with his friends. But Gary’s Uncle Jack has taken a different path of glamour, danger and mystery. When Jack has to get his nephew out of trouble, their lives are going to intersect in a way neither of them could have foreseen. From Mark Millar (Kick-Ass) and Dave Gibbons (Watchmen)."

How do I describe this comic? The easy explanation? It's like the TV show Shameless had been written by a drunk Ian Fleming.

Imagine that James Bond had a nephew, and that nephew spent his time on a run-down estate committing petty crime and stealing cars, jobless, living with a mother who seems to accept their fate as she struggles to get by with an abusive boyfriend. Gary, the nephew, is smart and doesn't like where he is and after another run-in with the law his uncle, Jack, decides to get him out of the downward spiral he's in... by enrolling him in what is basically 'spy school'.

It doesn't get much more fish-out-of-water than that. While Gary goes through the hard and rigorous training, uncle Jack investigates the disappearance of celebrities and scientists - in fact, the comic opens with Star Wars stars Mark Hamill being sort-of rescued by a British Secret Service agent in true James Bond movie opening action scene style. This plot is given a little attention as Gary's story goes on but blossoms as the story begins to escalate and the threads come together.

The script is sharp, witty and well realised and there are some particularly good laugh out loud moments. It's crisp and the dialogue feels natural in some respects, a little too much like a lecture in others as the story shows the downside of life in the run-down estates but also has something of a stab at it. That's not what the comic is about, mind you, and it primarily reflects the changes that Gary goes through as he learns about the wider world and also learns new skills and tricks. He's still a ragamuffin at heart - his language and behaviour more than tells you that - so it's interesting to watch him transform from an estate rat to a rat of as higher calibre.

Gibbons' artwork suits the story and is up to his usual standard. I may be a little bit biased, here, as I grew up with his work in the pages of 2000AD and admired everything he put to paper. The panels are almost movie-like in appearance - which is not too surprising as this comic is in the works to become a motion picture, thanks to the involvement of movie supremo Matthew Vaughn - and you can more than see this on the big screen. The artwork of Gibbons sells that notion and his talent never fails to impress me.

An excellent comic that will appeal to casual readers and fans of the spy genre especially. Recommended.