Gary, a young yob living a directionless, destructive life in one of the less glamorous locales of London finds himself in the kind of trouble that only his uncle Jack can get him out of. Seeing potential without opportunities, Jack decides the only way to pull Gary out of the pit is to take him under his wing and so starts him on a course of training to follow in his footsteps, as a danger baiting agent of the British Secret Service. Meanwhile, Jack is investigating the disappearance of celebrities on a massive scale.
Mark Millar is singular in the world of comics, not just because he is a talented writer that moves with the times and regularly dishes out stories that are crowd pleasing, extreme and slavishly geek-centric all at the same time, but because, through force of sheer personality and will, he has managed to forge a SUCCESSFUL line of comics based solely on his own creations, become the spokesperson for a new British comic convention with aspirations to equal its big American counterparts, make friends and connections in all the right areas that have gone on to ensure everything he produces are optioned as movie projects and eventually has become the go to guy to oversee all of Fox’s Marvel film projects.
Taking his Hollywood statues to a whole new level, Millar has co-plotted his latest mini-series, The Secret Service, with his friend and A-lister director, Matthew Vaughn (Layer Cake, Kick-Ass, X-Men: First Class), while Vaughn developed the property simultaneously as a movie (unfortunately penned by current hack du jour, Jane Goldman, whose M.O. includes writing adaptations (Stardust, Kick-Ass, The Woman In Black), whose highpoints derive from direct lifts of the source material but with adages of her own devising which usually make little logical sense within the story reality and beyond.)
It’s a fun concept, urban drama meets classic James Bond style action adventure, the latter (judging by the look and feel of First Class) being a particular favourite of Vaughn; and I truly mean classic style Bond, we’re seeing Union Flag parachutes, ludicrous gadgets, classic cars and apocalyptic level threats to humanity, and it’s all wrapped up in that identifiable Millar style that manages to be genuine AND ironic.
Unfortunately it’s Millar-ish to the point of predictability. The scale of the adventure has to be significantly smaller than his superhero stuff, so it feels like everything in the story is a lighter version of things we’ve seen in his work already.
That besides, it’s pencilled by industry legend Dave Gibbons (Watchmen), and while his style is clean and graphical it can hardly be described as dynamic, and as such the numerous action sequences never really feel like they’re hitting their full stride. There’s also the unfortunate issue that the story requires a number of celebrities to be replicated and placed into the backdrop, but likenesses aren’t Gibbons’ strong point, so most times the gags, unless backed up by on-the-nose dialogue, don’t take.
It should make for a fun, retro spy movie (and if they don’t cast Fassbender as suave uncle Jack they’re missing a trick), because it’s a fun read, but it has to be said, it’s nothing special and as far as Millar’s work goes it’s as by the numbers as anything he’s produced, probably the weakest of the Millarworld line to date.
B- grade – for originality
C+ grade – for storytelling
C+ grade – for artwork
Overall grade – C+
The Secret Service will be available in collected hardcover from the end of May.