As you may well guess, Spies takes us into the dark and violent world of secret agents. Three brief tales introduce us to the main players: John, framed for a bombing and branded a terrorist; Francis, a smooth operator held at a Russian femme fatale’s mountain chalet; and Bethany, an ice queen warrior and apparently part ninja just returned from a Hong Kong mission. Their exploits each represent different variations on perceptions of spycraft: the counterterrorism battlegrounds of the likes of Spooks, the glamorous yet dangerous Bond-like webs of international intrigue and seduction, and the high-octane action of the Bourne movies.
There is a lot of history to these characters, some of it implied in their dialogue, others in their actions and attitudes to their craft, and it’s clear that they are people so deeply entrenched into the spy game it has become a part of who they are, for good or ill. John’s internal monologue is the nihilistic dejection of a man who has had every reason to live taken from him, ragged scars gouged under his eye like the burned canals of tears shed for his old life, his emptiness only briefly filled by effortlessly kicking the crap out of a band of football hooligans on the London Underground. Despite being helpless, Francis remains calm and confident and unable to turn off the charm even in the face of imminent death. Bethany’s report of a motorbike chase, the intense violence of the action juxtaposed with her matter-of-fact verbal report, in which she relates details of the deaths of colleagues and taking out half a dozen enemies in a matter of moments, suggest a woman for whom emotion is a foreign concept and human connection a distant puzzle.
While this first issue of Spies is not as immediately gripping as Farman’s other titles such as School of the Damned or Royal Descent, that’s less a detraction and more indicative of the high bar he has set for himself. It’s like an extended prologue, as it’s not until the end that the disparate strands come together in any way, but the names of everyone involved both explicitly and tacitly state just how connected everything is, but to what extent is yet to made completely clear. Now that the necessary introductions are taken care of, what we can assume will be a complex and multi-layered tale of swift action and shifting loyalties can properly begin.
SPIES #1 / AUTHOR: JOHN FARMAN / ARTIST: JASON MATHIS / PUBLISHER: VITAL PUBLISHING / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW