Saturday, April 14, 2012

The Secret Service #1

Written by Mark Millar
Art by Dave Gibbons

I wasn't too sure what to expect when starting The Secret Service.  Mark Millar can't always be trusted as a writer - he often panders to the lowest element in comics fans, providing stories that are ultra-violent, puerile, or just kind of gross, but he can also bring out some thoughtful and original comics.

This issue opens with a group of terrorists holding Star Wars star Mark Hamill prisoner in a chalet in Switzerland.  We don't really know why they have him, but there are a lot of them, and they are well-armed.  Hamill is quickly rescued by a British Secret Service agent, whose lengthy escape sequence echoes the beginning of many a James Bond movie, although it ends in a very funny moment.

After that, the story shifts to a Council Estate in South London, where we meet a typical trashy British family.  The mother is getting grief from her new husband for flirting with his brother, and he then goes and gets his youngest child to roll a joint for him.  The woman's oldest son causes a bit of a scene before storming out and going for a joyride with his friends, which lands him in jail later.

The woman calls on her brother, who she believes is working in the Fraud Squad, but whom we learn is a Secret Service Agent, working this string of science fiction celebrity kidnappings (it's not just Hamill).  He takes some time off from his investigation to have a row with his sister at the police station, before deciding that perhaps he needs a larger role in his wayward nephew's life.

Millar fills this book with some strong character work, and resists the urge to portray the family as caricatures, providing the woman with some dignity, while still acknowledging the poverty of her situation.  It's clear that he's going to take the nephew under his wing, but how that is going to relate to the kidnappings remains to be seen.

Dave Gibbons's art makes this book.  He's never been a flashy artist, and his pencils look a little dated, but in a very classic way.  Having an artist of his calibre on this comic brings it much more respectability, and is good counter-programming to DC's upcoming Before Watchmen series.  It's hard to imagine this comic working with the types of artists that Millar usually collaborates with, like Leinil Francis Yu or Steve McNiven.  It just wouldn't work so well.

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