By Todd Allen
There’s a sub-genre of espionage that’s come to be called “Spy-Fi.” Spy-Fi is the blending of science fiction and spy stories. It’s primarily a film and television thing, with the mild science fiction aspects of the Bond gadgets and eventually the Bond villains. On the small screen it was evident in the increasingly fantastic villains in the (Steed and Mrs. Peel) Avengers, the super powered spies of The Champions and the Jules Verne-esque Wild Wild West. In comics, more often than not, your spy adventures are Spy-Fi. Nick Fury had his super agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Iron Man and Captain America have frequently mingled super heroes and espionage. There was also Image’s Who Is Jake Ellis?, which had a spy with another spy living in his brain. (That’s an over-simplification, but you get the gist.)
The Activity #1 is the new spy series from Nathan Edmondson, the writer of Who Is Jake Ellis?, as well as Grifter over at DC. Joining him on the art duties is Mitch Gerads. Unlike the above, this appears to be a straight espionage title, owing more to Tom Clancy than Ian Flemming. An unusual thing in the comics world, even if it’s more mainstream with the prose-reading audience at large.
The Activity concerns a secret unit of U.S. Intelligence operatives. It seems to be largely, but not exclusively military in nature. In the SEAL/Delta tradition, but espionage-ish than search and destroy. What we have here is an excellent introductory issue. This more or less one and done introduces the premise through a milk run with a new recruit, gives just a little bit of background on the set-up and some of the operative and sets the plate for the series.
The Activity is also definitely in the “widescreen” tradition of comics storytelling that used to be quite the buzzword a few years back. This has a very cinematic feel and the brisk pacing of a caper film. There really isn’t that much more to say about it without getting into the actual mission. This comic doesn’t waste a lot of time establishing tone or identity and is a solid debut.
The question remains where this series is going and what the format will be. It isn’t immediately apparent if a larger story arc is starting or if more bits and pieces will dropped in more one and done issues. This is one of the better introductory issues of the last few months, now it’s just a question of direction. Recommended for fans of espionage and military black ops stories. If those aren’t your genres, you might want to hang back until the direction is a little more firmly established and we see if this swings more towards Queen & Country or more towards Jason Bourne.
Todd Allen wears a lot of hats. At various times he’s been (alphabetically), a bouncer, college professor, humor columnist, Internet producer and an NBA/WNBA Beat Writer, among other things. He’s the author of Economics of Digital Comics. You should probably read it.