When it comes to British super spies there’s only one you need to know about this week and he goes by the name Roland King in King of Spies. Mark Millar and Matteo Scalera are taking the super-spy story a bit further with this series in an action-packed and intriguing series. The premise revolves around Roland trying to make a difference with only six months to live. He’s served queen and country for the “good guys”, and now he’s going to use his skills and knowledge to take out the worst people in the world.
This issue opens the series strong first with a big action sequence showing Roland in his prime and how far he’s fallen in his older age. He’s basically James Bond but even more acrobatic, but he’s at the end of his career and soon finds out he’s dying. The first half of the book is exciting, kinetic, and well-choreographed. Scalera keeps the pace up and seems to top one amazing move by Roland after another. It’s great spy action stuff.
The second half shows Roland as older, but never less dangerous. He’s not on any missions, but we get to see he’s more than capable of taking people out. This half is more about showing Roland as a bit bitter and regretful after living a life that meant being apart from his wife and kid. In fact, he barely knows his child, and so his motivations lie in making amends to them by finally doing something right for the world.
The fact that the queen shows up is likely foreboding for her, but this issue doesn’t do a lot to reveal who Roland will be targeting. Given the fast-paced action in the first half and proper motivations established in the second, it’s safe to say we’re in for a wild ride.
Unfortunately, it’s unclear who Roland is going to target, making his mission vague. There’s also not quite enough done to show Roland’s lack of a relationship with his daughter. He’s never met her, but he clearly knows her. Even two panels could have gone a long way to flesh out the complicated relationship he has and how much he cares about her.
There’s a zip to the art that feels cinematic, be it foreground characters as Roland walks along the street or detailed establishing shots of locations. Perspective is key with over-the-shoulder angles, or well-placed close-ups. In one scene, Roland is standing on a Jeep that is driven into with a Mack truck. The angle is from the side to show he’s flying off a bridge from the force and the next panel is a birds-eye view to show what’s below the bridge he’s falling down into. It’s a good example of how it moves the eye around the panels in interesting ways.
Colors by Giovanna Niro take a subdued tone with browns used throughout. Niro has some heavy detail work at times, like the bookshelves Roland’s house or the rug and bookshelves in a gentleman’s club. Color helps distinguish between foreground and background figures, helping to draw the eye to the action or key features in each panel.
Letters by Clem Robins are strong too, with good placement of word balloons. There are some sharp and long tails as needed, and a great two balloon punch from the queen that starts on a closeup of her then swings down to the reaction shot of Roland that adds to the punch of her words.
King of Spies #1 is a sharp premise that’d work great in a movie or television show. Fans of espionage will love to see the secret agent story developed into their twilight years. Fans of Kingsman might be surprised to find a more gritty look and feel, but it gives it an edge that separates it from the pack. This is an edgy espionage story with dynamic action and a clever premise.
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