Comic Reviews 

Review – King Of Spies #1

Review – King Of Spies #1

Review – King Of Spies #1

Publisher: Image Comics

Writer: Mark Millar

Artist: Matteo Scalera

Colourist: Giovanna Niro

Letterer: Clem Robins

Release Date: December 1st 2021

Initially, I was excited to review King of Spies #1. It is a new series from Image Comics, which follows an ageing Bond-like spy called Roland King. The series is also written by Mark Millar, who we know is no stranger to the spy genre due to his successful The Secret Service: Kingsman franchise.

Generally, I am a fan of Mark Millar’s work when he buckles down to write a story that has heart with characters that feel genuine. My issue with him as a writer is that when he is given free rein to write whatever he likes in his Millarworld books, (as opposed to when he is working for Marvel or DC,) he tends to go overboard and write edgy, crass, unlikable characters that are hard to get behind.

Unfortunately, this is also the case here. I actually cut Millar a bit more slack with this one than I normally do. This is because the young version of Roland is supposed to be an obnoxious smart-ass in the same way that James Bond is. However, with Mark Millar being Mark Millar, he apparently always has to take it up a notch.

It isn’t enough for Roland King to be a misogynistic, nonchalant killer with a devil-may-care attitude, he apparently also has to be damn-near super-powered. Also, his villains apparently have to spout dialogue that sounds like it could have been lifted from whatever the 1990 equivalent of 4chan was.

Review – King Of Spies #1

I have always said that some of the Millarworld books could be phenomenal if a great editor was brought on-board to help cut out the immature, tactless, unnecessary dialogue and plot points out of the story. This is definitely also true for King of Spies #1 and it feels bloated because of it.

My one main concern going into this first issue was that they would squander the fascinating concept of what is essentially an older James Bond atoning for his lifetime of debauchery and sin. Seeing a character in the latter half of his life learning to live with the atrocities and carnage that he laid in his wake as a young man could have been incredible and yet it is wasted here in service of telling yet another undeveloped, juvenile tale of mindless mayhem.

Personally, I found it extremely hard to relate to or sympathise with Roland, even after it jumps to the aged version of him. Sure, he talks about how he feels bad about some of the horrible things he did in years prior, but when we are shown these sequences, Millar basks in the glory of the depravity on display. This makes Roland feel like somewhat of a walking contradiction.

Instead of feeling bad for the guy when he is diagnosed with a terminal illness, I instead felt like it was a form of karmatic justice being done. Every time that Roland spouted a self-pitying piece of dialogue, I thought to myself; “Good, it seems like you were always a dick and now you are getting what you deserve.” I doubt that this was the takeaway that Mark Millar was hoping to achieve.

Being asked to feel sorry for this narcissistic mass murderer, (whom is also likely a serial sexual offender,) is akin to being asked to give sympathy for someone like Kevin Spacey. It feels a little like when Harvey Weinstein turned up to his trial with a zimmer frame in order to garner sympathy. Obviously, this is not a good parallel to have conjured up.

The art by Matteo Scalera is decent. It isn’t the most technically detailed I’ve ever seen, but I enjoyed his character design a lot. The way that he draws action also has an undeniable dynamism to it, which works very well in this issue. The colouring by Giovanna Niro in the book also adds to said dynamism and helps bring the various environments to life.

Review – King Of Spies #1

Perhaps this series can be redeemed in later issues. This is after all just the first issue and the idea of the story being told is an interesting one. Where Roland goes next may be interesting to see and if we are spared from seeing more of the immensely unlikable young Roland King, then that may help the audience get on-board with the more mature, remorseful version of the character.

That is all theoretical though. When I solely look at King of Spies #1 for review purposes, it is an annoyingly puerile, crude first issue which never lives up to the captivating premise that it establishes. The artwork is of a respectable standard, but ultimately Mark Millar struggles to write grounded, realistic characters that you can get behind and this lets the issue down.

King of Spies #1 will release on the 1st of December and will be available wherever comics are sold.

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If you enjoyed Dan’s review of King Of Spies #1, you can check out his review of the first issue of BRZRKR here.

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Daniel Boyd

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Daniel is a 26-year-old writer from Glasgow. He loves sci-fi and hates fantasy. He also hates referring to himself in the third person and thinks that bios are dumb.

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