Advance Review – Spy Island #1 (Dark Horse Comics)

Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
Writer: Chelsea Cain
Artwork/Design/Supplemental Art: Lia Miternique
Colours: Rachelle Rosenberg
Lettering: Joe Carmanaga
Supplemental Art: Stella Greenvoss
Release Date: 2nd September 2020

Who or what are the Ministry of Trouble Incorporated? A cover that sings out trashy holiday novel, a beautiful, and darkly humorous opening coupled with a strong female lead. An island of mystery that’s full of strange characters and monsters, both figurative and literal. Gratuitous sex scenes (well only one, and that’s more of a Wayne’s World reference than anything else.) What exactly is going on? Honestly, I can’t say for sure. I will however be looking forward to my stay…

Spy Island is a new series that caught me off guard and rings the bell of circumventing expectation. When I’m given the opportunity to review something new that I don’t know much about I tend to try and steer clear of too much blurb and take it at face value. The cover, as a I said, is a glorious homage to those old novels. If the ominous skull doesn’t signal death, and lots of it, one might be a touch disappointed. However, given the fact that this is a Dark Horse book, I’m also going to admit that the bar gets set a little bit higher. So I’m going in thinking spies and sinister dealings in luscious surroundings; maybe a little Live and Let Die spicy flavour.

The storytelling is very clever and obfuscates the time period of our setting. References to Netflix and certain panels place this firmly in the modern age, but then some of the outfits, language, and colour means this could as easily be the swinging ‘60s or psychedelic ‘70s. Well, the island is in the Bermuda triangle so who knows? On top of this we’ve got in your face references to societies and fundraising bodies which sound like exaggerations and wordplay… but maybe it is meant to be taken at face value?

Visually, there’s a neat blend of styles and tastes here. We have warm seas and diving mishaps that lead on into crowded parties with typewriter ribbon descriptions.  Oh, and conga lines. You can’t have a tropical party without the conga! There’s a sense that despite the strong lead, we’ll get a diverse ensemble cast creating a salad bowl of all the worlds intelligence and counter intelligences.

This isn’t slapstick comedy, but it is funny. This isn’t hard Le Carre espionage, but it is chock full of spies and secret agents. I’m not quite sure what it is, but I do know that I really liked it. There’s a lot going on and it pushes hard on the boundaries but everything is kept from spiralling into overblown gonzo. With no idea where this is going, I’d put money on it being one to consider adding to the pull list though.

Rating: 4/5.


The writer of this piece was: Adam Brown
Adam Tweets from @brother_rooster


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