Advent Review #23: Illegitimates #1 (Comics Review)

If Marvel’s Painkiller Jane, Image’s Velvet and IDW’s Illegitimates are any indication, then spy/detective stories are on the rise in the comics scene, and I think that its all the better for it. Helps break the monotony of superheroes everywhere, and it helps Image and IDW particularly in continuing to offer a diverse portfolio to readers, to draw them in and do some really fun stuff. Of course, Velvet and Illegitimates are twists on the classic James Bond-style setting.

The former is based on the premise that the secretary is a former agent, quite lethal in fact, whereas the latter is based on the premise that the super secret agent left a string of babies during his escapades all over the world. And the latter is what we are concerned with here. Illegitimates basically runs off with that premise and it sets up a situation where the so-called illegitimates come to the notice of the organisation and are brought in (or will be brought in, I should say). The writing is decent, if a bit bland, and the art is similar.

Illegitimates 01The first half of the issue is pretty typical. We are introduced to super-secret debonair spy Jack Steele and each page outlines a particular mission and each of these involves hooking up with a woman, whether a fellow spy, or an enemy spy or some local contact and such. Sometimes the romance is implied, sometimes it is shown full-on. The picture that emerges is of a spy who is pretty much a… rough James Bond. In fact, you could replace the name Jack Steele with James Bond and there really wouldn’t be much of a difference. An interesting beginning certainly, and the mid-point is quite horrific given what happens to Steele. And that’s where his kids come in.

It is a bit concerning that the story is written in a way that implies that Steele never cared a whit about any of his offspring and that he even let these women carry on with their lives without ever acknowledging the kids or owning up to his responsibilities as a father (many times over). Disturbing even to a degree. And we mostly always see Steele at his worst, not at his best, so the entire story is very one-sided and even unrelenting in how… dark a picture of this super-spy is created.

Its the second half where things come together though, once we are introduced to each of the five kids, all of whom have been noticed by OLYMPUS for one reason or another and who have been identified as potential agents. The collage/montage one-page intros are written well, giving each of these kids a distinct personality to help them differentiate themselves from each other. They are all grown-up now and have handled one kind of adversity and challenge or another, and the entire backstory (for that is what this is all is) really comes together here.

But, this is all too much setup. I was waiting for there to be something more here, to get to a point where everything would come together and move the plot forward and unite the team, so to speak. But that’s left off for the second issue, or at least I hope it will be in the second issue. The cliffhanger at the end is a good one, I think, and I liked the particular twist that is thrown in, but the issue would have benefited from extra page-count, for sure. More page-count for the first issue would have really helped sell the title as a biggie and gotten more people interested. Spy stories are like that. They have a long build-up, and then everything quickly comes together. A comics medium needs to balance that out.

The pencils in this issue are by Kevin Sharpe, with inks by Diana Greenhalgh and colours by Pete Pantazis and letters by Thom Zahler. The artwork throughout was decent. It could have been better, especially with regards to the character faces, since they seemed to be a bit too… light and similar looking for the women. Some differentiation and distinction between them would have been nice. There’s a particular scene in the first half involving a secretary who is dressed extremely gratuitously and it jars because that’s not the kind of clothes you’d expect a secretary working in a spy organisation to be wearing. So that’s that. Minus the problematic stuff the art isn’t all that bad. Some good use of inks and colours throughout, but still there are areas where it can definitely improve.

Overall, I’d say that this was a decent issue at best. It has a very interesting premise, but the execution is quite a bit off, and I’ll be checking out the second issue to see what improvements are made, if any.

Rating: 6/10

Posted on December 24, 2013, in Comics Reviews, Review Central and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

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