Writer: Chelsea Cain
Artists: Elise McCall, Lia Miternique, Stella Greenvoss
Colorist: Rachelle Rosenberg
Cover Artist: Lia Miternique
Letterer: Joe Caramagna
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
Spy Island #1 introduces us to undercover operative Nora Freud (no relation), whose latest mission takes her to the Bermuda Triangle, a tropical paradise full of mystery, enchantment, and even otherworldly beings. It’s evident within the first few pages that this isn’t just your typical spy narrative. Sure, there’s murder, sex, and more than a couple of unsavory characters, not to mention a darkly comic tone not unlike the Kingsmen films or even Archer. But what really sets this story apart is the genre-bending weirdness and Nora’s nonchalant attitude towards it all. This is a world where alien time bandits, Nazi ghosts, talkative mimes, and other weird shit are completely commonplace.
The story’s weirdness is both inspired and a little frustrating. Employing more of a tell-don’t-show approach, Nora lists off a number of monsters, magic types, and other sci-fi tropes with little context other than that they exist. The one exception? Mermaids–a species whose need for preservation serves as a catalyst to bring Nora and other operatives together–may also prove to be a much more sinister force. The idea of a fundraiser to “stop mermaid harassment” is both ridiculous and clever, and it’s very much in writer Chelsea Cain’s wheelhouse. Cain’s optimistic yet cynical voice shines perfectly through Nora’s narration. The eclectic writer has proven that she understands comics incredibly well, with works such as the criminally underrated Maneaters and her all-too brief run on Marvel’s Mockingbird. And here, once again, she’s using the medium to tell a fun story in a way that only comics can.
Of course, in order to tell a story effectively, a comic needs a capable artist, and Elise McCall is no exception. Her understated designs help ground the story, with realistic-looking characters (the human ones anyway) and gorgeous settings. There are plenty of trippy visuals that wouldn’t look out of place during the opening titles to a Bond film. As with any Cain comic, there is “supplemental” material, including images of actual sea life, courtesy of co-creators Lia Miternique and Stella Greenvoss. This is a world that feels very much like a ’60s spy novel but is full of modern-day aspects, including a very meta-reference to “Twitter trolls,” something Cain knows a thing or two about.
This latest Dark Horse miniseries is groovy, sexy, and weird in all the ways comics should be. WARNING: May contain hairy men in Union Jack speedos.