The Secret Service - Kingsman by Mark Millar and Dave Gibbons

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The Secret Service - Kingsman by Mark Millar and Dave Gibbons

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Category: Graphic Novels
Rating: 5/5
Reviewer: John Lloyd
Reviewed by John Lloyd
Summary: Possibly Mark Millar at his best, this six-issue collection is a great origin story as well as a scathing look at how low we might have to search to find the heights of humanity.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 160 Date: March 2014
Publisher: Titan Books
ISBN: 9781781167038

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He is Mister London. Jack London. He is the longest-serving, most experienced and downright most suave secret agent the country has. But he now has a problem possibly bigger than even those he's had to face up to before – his nephew. Gary Unwin, Eggsy to his friends, is stuck in a rut called Peckham, living with his kid brother and his single mum, and her latest bullying, abusive partner. His life is the X-Box, cheap four-packs and TWOCing the neighbourhood cars. Reluctantly casting his mind from the problem of someone kidnapping the greats of TV sci-fi history, Jack undergoes his most awkward mission yet – raising his nephew to be a world-saver.

The fact that he does it is the nearest thing to a problem with this comic. It's been designed with the movie in mind, with director Matthew Vaughn on hand as, we are told, co-plotter, and as such perhaps we can see a little too much coming. What we get then is various in-jokes, ridiculous star cameos that will definitely raise a laugh if they survive to the big screen, and arch comments about this being real life and not the movies, even while Jack and Gary walk through what is basically Q's workshop. There is something to be said for the plot being a little formulaic, and the beats a little predictable, even if that doesn't stretch to the OTT crime scenario.

But if there has been any leavening of Mark Millar's usual excess, it's probably not hurt us at all. There is a great social realism here, and hopefully the film would capture that as well as ditch the stereotypical montage scenes. Millar has elsewhere been capable of ultra-violence and little else, but the point of this book is to highlight the nastiness of the common weal, the general concerns of forsaken teenage life and the average conversation in the typical London pub. It also rings true when it reaches the seemingly unlikely – why wouldn't MI5 and MI6 name their operations and training devices after the video games that mimic them so professionally?

In the end, apart from the ideas the Big Bad has to justify his crimes, there is a moral to the piece – get off your couch and at least do something. There is more than one way to better yourself, at least, for not everyone can have an Uncle Jack London. It doesn't demand the abolition of Peckham, as such, but it does suggest we can all level up, and not in the computer game way, although the realism of the day-to-day and the outré factors of the Secret Service on these pages show the creators do acknowledge it might not be an easy thing for us to do.

Oh and if you want to stuff morals, Dave Gibbons can draw an epic death-by-laser-pen-knife.

All in all, then, while there is a little too much Hollywood in-faction about it, I think this is Millar's best work. He has touched on the hero within the everyman before now, but I think this is him at his most successful. The dramatic plot, the verve of the telling and drawing, even when touching on the formulaic and the well-worn training clichés – this is right up there with modern titles. I hope the big screen copy doesn't ruin my appreciation for what is a great comic.

I must thank the publishers for my review copy.

Snowpiercer Vol.1 - The Escape by Jacques Lob and Jean-Marc Rochette will also be filmed soon, and is well worth a look, as long as you wrap up warmly first.

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