Monday, 21 April 2014

The Secret Service: Kingsman Review (Mark Millar, Dave Gibbons)

Gary is a thuggish oik from a generic housing estate in Britain who spends his days boosting cars and smoking spliffs. His dad’s a thug who beats up his doormat mother and they all live on benefits. Then one day Gary’s Uncle Jack shows up and reveals that he’s a Secret Agent on Her Majesty’s Secret Service - and would Gary like to be one too?

I generally like Mark Millar’s Millarworld books but I couldn’t believe how derivative so much of this book was. The opening sequence is reminiscent of Kick Ass’s opening scene where you see a “superhero” soar off a building - and then land on a car, dead. The setup of the young nobody suddenly realising he has untapped potential within him is Wanted all over again. The rest of the book is just brazenly lifted from James Bond - the debonair secret agent, the gadgets, the licence to kill, the swish car and associated weaponry, even the bad guy with the fiendish plan in his mountain lair!

The book has a good message to impart of how anyone can make something of themselves even if they come from nothing, and that they shouldn’t let stereotypes define their identity, but it’s diluted with a lot of cynicism from elsewhere in the story. Part of the villain’s plan is abducting celebrities (for no real reason it turns out) and is just there so that when Matthew Vaughn, the film director who co-plotted the book, films it, he can put in some famous faces for the trailer.

The ending is predictable (duh, does Jame Bond ever fail to stop the bad guy?), Gary’s training happens too quickly (those three years feel like three months at most), in fact most of the book rushes by in a series of trite and forgettable moments. Millar’s bloody sense of humour is present in a couple of scenes but for the most part the story never once becomes interesting.

The characterisation was completely lazy: Uncle Jack WAS James Bond, Gary was pitiful and dreary as the lead, and the rest of the cast were archetypes from the abusive boyfriend to the megalomaniacal boss. I’m not a big Dave Gibbons fan and found his artwork just so-so - not terrible but nothing that stands out as particularly impressive.

I usually get through Millar’s books in one sitting but it took me several attempts to get through The Secret Service - it was that boring. It tries too hard to be edgy, cool, even inspiring and winds up being the opposite of all three. The Secret Service: Kingsman is by far the worst book in the Millarworld so far. 

The Secret Service - Kingsman

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