Review: Spy Seal Vol.1: The Corten Steel Phoenix
Words, Art, Colours & Letters: Rich Tommaso
Publisher: Image Comics
Would it be wrong of me to claim that Spy Seal has all the makings of a modern classic; a modern yet utterly retrospective slice of cool that we seldom see on shelves packed with uber-machismo and over spun yarns? Well, Tommaso’s Spy Seal feels like exactly that. And by that I’m not saying it’s a perfect book, but what I am shouting about is the integrity to the art, that and the boundless fun that’s had when you stick your nose between the covers. Let’s dive in and see why the book’s made such a splash.
As far as espionage thrillers go, the cliches are all here; a much lauded-over ancient artefact, an array of butch henchmen at the beck and call of a pert and exotic antagonist, the obligatory red herring, in this case under the guise of a mob of masked, art-terrorist bunnies, and of course, our fearless spy whose omniscience leaves readers’ mouths agape. The ingredients in themselves are worth the cover price, if this is your genre. Saying that, if this doesn’t sound like your cup of martini, there are many, many more reasons to pick this up. The writing is so measured and on-point that it’s hard to ignore. Dialogue has a sixties’ sassiness that lesser writers often over-boil. It’s at once pacy and urgent, and chic with a dash of cool. Tommaso has got the tone just right and it reads more like a Bond script in places (Connery, naturally) rather than a comic book. The plot bounces along from setting to technicolour setting without missing a beat and I genuinely got excited when the thrills were turned up a notch, which, by-the-by, happens regularly.
The artwork, clearly is very much European in style and follows in the traditions of Herge and Benjamin Rabier with its fine penciling and clean depictions. This leads to a more obvious form of expression, especially considering the anthropomorphism. Facial expressions are utterly clear but body language and close ups are essential to convey the ups and downs of the action. This is matched by a cleverly coded colour palate where danger is hinted at, excitement is pointed at and humour is knowingly sniggered at. The brash yellow of Sy Seal getaway plane not only looks utterly too cool against the light blues of the sea but wouldn’t look out of place on a very expensive shower curtain. It’s that kind of ‘lifestyle cool’ that we’re talking about here.
All in all, the book is clever enough to tantalise those longer in the tooth but uber-cool enough to appeal to readers whose reading fits in around their lifestyles. I can not only imagine this next to a collection of classic graphic novels but also on a millenial’s coffee table, sorry, avocado-turmeric chai table, being pawed over by Quentin before taking the peacock for a walk. Or maybe you just want a lot of fun – either way, it’s probably for you. Yes, there are a few sequences that lose the pace where dialogue becomes a little stilted, but these don’t dent an otherwise great read. Enjoy!
Skully’s Corner: Why buy this book? I haven’t read a book this cool since my days as a cadaver in the morgue where I had to read whilst horizontal in the refrigeration unit. And since buying this, I’ve attracted the attention of a young French lady called Marie. She wears dark sunglasses even at night. So, if you want to enhance your life, BUY THIS BOOK.
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Review written by Arun Sharma.
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