King of Spies #1 is published by Image Comics, written by Mark Millar, art Matteo Scalera, colors by Giovanna Niro, letters by Clem Robins. Roland King was once a secret agent in the service of the British Government. His missions took him across the globe and saw him do things he both remembers proudly, as well as feels shame for. Seeing the state his generation has left the world in makes him wonder if there was any point to all the sacrifices that were made. Then, one day, he gets some news that spurs him to do one last mission. He’s gonna try to make the world a better place. And he’s going to do it the only way a man of violence such as himself knows how to.
Nothing is better than when you are halfway through a piece of media, believing you know where the story is going, only to discover that where you end up is somewhere completely different and far better than what you expected. Delivering an intriguing twist is a subtle art that can go wrong easily. Luckily, Millar’s writing manages it in King of Spies #1 with perfect execution.
When our story opens, it is 1990 and we are dropped into one of Roland King’s many adventures. Gunfights, fast chases, and a lady at the end instantly drop King into the familiar James Bond style of secret agent. While this opening sequence is delivered well, it is fairly non-descript for spy fare. We’ve all seen it before.
Fast forward to the modern-day and we are re-introduced to an aged King who is much worse for wear. A lifetime of boozing, brawling, and carousing has left him divorced, lonely, and in declining health. When a random exchange at a local club gets cut short due to the onslaught of a stroke, King learns that he is dying. As with so many people, the reminder that his life is on a timer gives him a new clarity with what is and isn’t important.
Looking back, he finds he is as much ashamed as he is proud of how he has spent his life. Feeling like he has contributed to the failing state of society, King decides he wants to go out on one last op. He is going to make the world a better place or die trying.
The way Millar’s writing delivers King’s reflective moments in the back third of this book truly sells both the character and the concept of the story. Changing from the classic womanizing spy to the atonement-seeking loner is a smooth and believable process thanks to Millar’s excellent execution.
King of Spies #1’s take on this hyper-cool spy agent that regrets their past and decides to try to right some of the mess they helped create delivers a sort of catharsis I wasn’t expecting. The concept of someone from a previous generation taking decisive action to right their wrongs, as opposed to simply passing the buck to future generations, was far more pleasing than I would’ve thought it would be.
The art throughout King of Spies #1 delivers on both the action of its opening, as well as the somberness of the modern-day moments. Artist Scalera does a great job of framing the panels in the opening sequence to capture the over-the-top nature of the sequence. Scalera’s lines are further augmented by Niro’s excellent use of color, which reinforces the emotional aspects of the back half of the story.
Wrapping up the visual presentation of the book is Robins’s letter work. The lettering keeps the story clear and easy to follow while utilizing plenty of bold in the dialogue to bring so extra energy to the text.
When all is said and done, King of Spies #1 brings a surprisingly fresh approach to a spy story. Where King’s adventure will ultimately take him, as well as how much wreckage he leaves in his wake, are things I cannot wait to learn.
King of Spies #1 is available December 1st wherever comics are sold.
King of Spies #1
King of Spies #1 brings a surprisingly fresh approach to a spy story. Where King’s adventure will ultimately take him, as well as how much wreckage he leaves in his wake, are things I cannot wait to learn.