Writer Mark Millar and legendary artist Dave Gibbons continue their amazing mini-series The Secret Service under Marvel Comics’ Icon imprint. Co-plotted by director Matthew Vaughn (Kick Ass and X-Men: First Class), issue 3 begins with an interesting clue as to where the plot is headed in the form of a lecture espousing the Gaia theory.
Basically, the Gaia theory states that the Earth is a self-regulating organism that will deal with the burdens mankind has placed upon it through overpopulation and pollution by flooding and global warming. With that said, Millar gives readers the first hint as to why the shadowy antagonist of the story is kidnapping writers, movie stars, and technologists.
This sounds similar to Ozymandias’ plot in Watchmen, which is obviously familiar territory for Gibbons. What makes it different is its fresh take on the idea that human beings are ruining the world. Also, Ozymandias executed his plan to ultimately save mankind where as the mysterious antagonist of The Secret Service may be interested in something completely different.
Millar manages to work in this carefully constructed clue in just a few pages, leaving the reader to work that out while getting back to the action with Uncle Jack, who is in the middle of a spy caper gone bad with the Chinese. That scene brilliantly parallels parts of the speech being given at the lecture.
For every dose of reality Millar confronts the reader with, he dishes out a large helping of fantastical action and adventure. Uncle Jack’s flying car rivals any of the gadgets cooked up by Q of the James Bond stories, and is used to great success as Uncle Jack bursts out of a no win situation while clinging to the back of his flying car.
Also, Millar continues to develop Gary throughout this story through a series of scenes in his training that show he is savvy, touched with a conscience, but still highly insecure about his abilities when placed in situations outside of his societal position. Given a few more pages, Millar could really round out the complexity of the characters, but there are limitations outside of his control when it comes to the logistics of writing comics.
Dave Gibbons should be credited with his unique ability to tell a story without a large amount of narrative or dialogue. Each panel of The Secret Service would be a giant speech bubble in the hands of a lesser artist. Gibbons’ ability to draw action, render nuanced expressions of characters, and work in dense storytelling is unparalleled. His mind’s eye for storytelling captures the most important aspects of the story and makes them work perfectly with Millar’s writing.
One of the best scenes drawn by Gibbons in this issue is Gary’s first assassination assignment. Each panel sets the mood so expertly as Gary struggles with the idea of having to kill someone. Gibbons captures that fear, anxiety, and internal struggle with the various expressions of Gary while seamlessly shifting the action through the scene in a way that shows so much in so little time.
Ian Fleming, the writer of the James Bond novels, would have been envious of Millar and Gibbons’ approach to writing a spy tale for its inventiveness and ability to incorporate social and global issues into the tapestry of their story. Millar and Gibbons make a great team.
Issue 3 of The Secret Service garners an A+ for both Millar’s writing and Gibbons’ artwork. The story has everything a reader could hope for with its intelligent plotting, character development, and brilliant artwork. I can’t wait for issue 4 next month.