Marvel Comics’ creator-owned imprint Icon has become a de facto arm of writer Mark Millar as of late. His and artist Dave Gibbons newest offering, The Secret Service, debuted with an interesting plot, witty writing, and built a strong emotional connection between the lives of its two main characters – Gary and his Uncle Jack.
Issue #2 starts out with a mass wedding that becomes a mass murder when a mysterious group conducts a bizarre experiment, causing the brides and grooms to turn on each other. At this moment, the honeymoon was officially over for me. Okay, not really, but issue #2 didn’t go down as smooth as the first.
Millar likes his violence, and issue #2 has plenty of it in the most unpredictable and rather predictable ways. My point simply comes down to the fact that Millar is at his worst as a writer when he goes for the quick, easy shock when he should be continuing to develop the ties between his main characters.
Where issue #1 showed a potent mix of action, story, and character development, issue #2 does a complete turnaround and hits on all of the clichéd beats that most action stories tend to follow. This may be due to the addition of Kick Ass director Matthew Vaughn as a co-plotter for the story. Apparently, Vaughn will be helping Millar bring The Secret Service to the big screen in the near future. His style may work for a film because of the content confinements of the typical movie, but it puts a muzzle on what Millar started with issue #1.
Getting back to the story, Uncle Jack and Gary follow up the gory beginning with a sit down to talk about a future for Gary as a spy. Things sort of get back on track before things turn towards another display of unnecessary violence that helps Uncle Jack convince Gary that he’s a certified super spy with a license to kill. Of course, Millar is heavily aping the James Bond archetype, which gives him artistic license to a degree, but he drifts from the charm of the first issue.
What I do like is the continued development of Gary and Uncle Jack’s relationship. Millar finds a way to make the two continually click with solid dialogue and scenes that provide substance to their development. Part of what makes this work is the fantastic art of Dave Gibbons. For all of you Watchmen fans, he does a spectacular job rendering the character’s expressions in these moments.
Gibbons also excels when developing the visual flow of each scene. Everything makes sense and builds towards visually expressing the tone and feel of each scene. It’s no wonder that Millar wanted him to work on this project. The Secret Service is better for Gibbons involvement.
The ending scene with Uncle Jack staring down a gaggle of machine gun barrels while casually asking for just a few more seconds to finish his job is rendered well and leaves the issues ending on a rather hilarious cliffhanger.
Overall, issue #2 could have been better, but it could have also been worse. The important thing is Millar and Gibbons have already hooked the audience with a solid story that deserves to be followed to its finish.