Spy Island #1 – Chelsea Cain, Elise McCall, Rachelle Rosenberg & Lia Miternique (Dark Horse Comics)


New, exciting, funny and piquant comic-books are perhaps not quite as rare as new, exciting, funny and piquant TV shows, because comic-books as a medium attracts new, exciting, funny, piquant people every day, and there’s arguably a sliiiightly easier, marginally faster path from idea to created product in the medium than there is in the world of TV.

That said, they’re not so ordinary and everyday that readers can ever get blasé about them. Not everything’s going to deliver on the promise of its premise.

And then there’s Spy Island.

Spy Island is the pre-credits sequence and the tight first ten minutes of the kind of TV show you text your friends about and re-watch just for the sheer pleasure of it. But in comic-book form. It’s got wit, it’s got knowing post-millennial humour, it’s got a whole kitchen sink of potential story elements ready for developing down the line, and it’s got an intriguing lead character – Nora Freud. Nora’s probably a spy and certainly an assassin.

On an island crawling with spies and assassins. And hopping with sand fleas.

On the cusp of the Bermuda Triangle.

Home to the original collective consciousness of mankind’s ooginess about Weird Shit That Happens, the potential for stories on an island on the cusp of the Triangle is huge. There’s a Kraken. There are Atlantean ruins. Alien whatnots. Deadly labs of assorted deadly goo – thank you, Bermuda Triangle for allowing me to say that’s probably where the damned Coronavirus escaped from – and all sorts of other fun, mad, horrific, dark and deeply scary stuff.

Plus the spies. Did we mention the spies? Probably self-explanatory, given the title of this new adventure from writer Chelsea Cain and artist Elise McCall, but we can’t really underplay the spy element, because they’re all here – every spy force on the planet seems represented, including MI6 in the person of Bondalike Harry Fauntleroy, for which name frankly, Cain should get extra gold stars and probably free fibre broadband forever.

Cain and McCall do something that’s both classic and subversive in the first handful of pages, delivering a voice-over intro where what you immediately think is going on is staggeringly, cleverly, oh-hell-yesishly inverted, to give you a much sharper hook than the one you thought you were heading for. Issue #1 is 32 pages long, and a very great deal of that page real-estate is taken up with exposition and set-up of the world of this comic-book, but it’s done with charm, with wit, with a visual style akin to the more vaguely sane issues of Tank Girl, and with a sass that would make you sit your ass down and watch the whole damn episode, and then watch it again. And then maybe once more before bedtime. Similarly, after this first issue, you’re probably gonna be in for the long run with this comic-book, because damn is it fun, and it’s brimming with invention, style, shenanigans and mermaids.

Oh yeah – mermaids are a thing here. There are fundraisers for mermaid awareness and protection, and mermaids have a…shall we say, dietarily interesting relationship with the land-dwellers who for centuries have hunted them, hounded them and ogled their altogether less fishy bits.

So…yyyyeah. Talk nicely to your comic-book supplier of choice, get yourself a copy of the debut issue of Spy Island, and in all likelihood, settle in for a long relationship with Nora Freud and her not-exactly-friends, not-exactly-colleagues and more-or-less family in this brilliantly inventive, sharp, funny, gorgeously constructed and involvingly drawn new comic-book. Your brains, your eyes and your funny bones’ll thank you. Tony Fyler

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