Publisher: Aftershock Comics
Writer: Garth Ennis
Artist: Russ Braun
Release Date: 14th June 2017
Super-spies, eh? What are they like? Traveling the world with their suave suits and fancy gadgets, saving us all from nefarious villains and leaving a trail of seduced and ravished women in their wake. But when you’re saving the world on a weekly basis, birth control probably isn’t a priority, so you’d could easily imagine that there might be quite a few illegitimate offspring out there, particularly for the world’s greatest spy (probably), Jimmy Regent, who’s about to discover that his reckless oat-sowing has some pretty serious consequences.
This new series from writer Garth Ennis and artist Russ Braun sees Jimmy’s progenies – all three hundred of them – feeling rightly wronged by their absentee father and deciding to unite into a menacing collective in order to get their revenge. It’s glib satire all the way as Ennis pokes fun at both the spy genre and society in general, and there are some genuinely amusing tongue-in-cheek moments throughout the course of this first issue.
That said, some of the satire does feel more than a little ill-judged, such as villain Theophilus Trigger, whose power seems to be saying controversial and upsetting things to “trigger” his enemies and send them off to their “safe spaces”. Yeah.
While I can sort of understand (if not necessarily agree with) the intention Ennis had, his execution has all the subtlety of cracking a walnut with a pneumatic drill, leaving the whole drawn-out sequence feeling more like a mean-spirited bout of punching down rather than any sort of nuanced social commentary.
What’s frustrating is that we all know Ennis is better than this (hell, this is one of the brains behind the likes of Preacher and The Boys), and it’s disappointing to see him miss the mark as spectacularly as he does here – although I’m sure there are a lot of readers who will genuinely get a kick out of, and even relate to, the bad guy, which is worrying in and of itself.
This major misfire aside, the story as a whole is enjoyable enough, even if this first issue is painfully slight. Ennis has built a gratuitously over-the-top world and populated it with polarizing figures, which sounds like a fun idea in theory, but which actually ends up feeling like a mish-mash of different ideas that don’t quite land. Jimmy is your typical callously violent and womanizing James Bond analogue, but Ennis goes to great pains to establish that he’s also apparently a great guy who respects women. The idea of an army of illegitimate offspring forming into some sort of Hydra-esque bad guy cult is also an intriguing one, but the world Ennis has created feels entirely free from consequence or emotion, so it’s difficult to envisage anything significant happening from a character development point of view, other than “Jimmy gets out of trouble by shooting everyone and cracking puns.”
It also perhaps doesn’t help things that the review copy we were provided with was an unfinished proof, so it’s difficult to really speak too much about the visual side of the book, except to say that Russ Braun’s pencil work and character design are both genuinely impressive, with stylish layouts and dynamic moments aplenty. Jimmy looks great as he goes about his business, and the intentionally over-the-top spy satire works well alongside Braun’s outlandish designs and clear gift for both visual comedy beats and casual violence.
Feeling like a weird mix of James Bond, Vince Vaughn’s movie “Delivery Man” and an ‘edgy’ student union ‘zine, Jimmy’s Bastards tries to do a lot in this first issue, but ultimately comes across as a little flat and self-indulgent. With the exception of the closing pages and the introduction of Jimmy’s intriguing partner Nancy, there’s really not a lot to work with here aside from some eloquent profanity and undeniably impressive artwork.
A rare misstep from Aftershock Comics then, and while it’s likely that the series will pick up some momentum once the real meat of the story comes to the fore, based on this first issue, I don’t know if I’ll be sticking around to find out.
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