In Review: Operation S.I.N. #1

The visuals are acceptable, but the story has me hooked.

The covers: The Main cover contains some fantastic photorealistic imagery. Michael Komarck created this cool piece with Agent Carter caught in the crosshairs of a foe, though her gun is already drawn to shoot first. To her left is Howard Stark holding a massive futuristic rifle. Below them is a rugged looking man with a jetpack speeding above a mountain range. The image places the reader in the time period instantly and this is the cover I bought. The first Variant is by Gabriel Hardman & Jordan Boyd. This looks like a warped promotion art for Bonnie and Clyde. Carter is on one knee with a machine gun, while a rather unshaven Stark has a pistol ready to fire. They’re before a terrific classic car in Red Square, Moscow. Behind them is a bear of a man wearing a Wally Wood inspired helmet, holding a space gun. The sky is full of flying saucers. Wow! Outstanding image with great coloring–I love the orange sky and the grays on the heroes in the front. I need to track this down. The final Variant is a Skottie Young piece in grey and white. It’s the most noir of the three covers, and it’s one I really like. Its point of view is looking up at the buildings of the city. Below is an intense looking Stark and an unimpressed Carter. High in the sky the happy flying rugged man soars. This is my kind of Young Variant. Overall grades: All A

The story: 1952. Peggy Carter is going to bed. After she turns off the radio and the lights she hears a loud noise downstairs. She reaches under her pillow, but she forgot she doesn’t keep a gun there anymore. A barrage of shots come through her door and wall. Carter hits the floor and begins to tie her shoes on. The door is kicked over by an armor-wearing shooter who speaks into a microphone, “Clear. The bird has flown.” “Not quite,” she says, sliding from under the bed, kicking out his ankle. A punch lays him out, but there’s another man downstairs. He’s carrying some very upscale high tech, yet he’s no match for her. This is a good, exciting opening from Kathryn Immonen. The conclusion of this assault of her house leads to the opening credits page that’s written up like a S.H.I.E.L.D. file. This perfectly brought me up to speed with this heroine and had me ready for the story to start in. Howard Stark eventually asks retired Peggy if she would accompany him to Moscow because he’s going to get something vital and he trusts her. She goes and the spy work begins. Immonen has captured the time period very well. I was glad that the science fiction element of the story took a while to appear, and the pages leading up to it built the era, the surroundings, and the characters excellently. I’m liking the relationship between Carter and Stark, and the two new individuals in Moscow. The cliffhanger is great and I really want to know what Carter has gotten involved with. Overall grade: A 

The art: I was hot and cold with Rich Ellis’s art. I didn’t start out a fan, but became one by the end of the book. The first three pages were a nice build to the action as Peggy’s house is invaded, and the entrance of the shooter is good. Ellis is doing all that he can to establish the time period by making sure that his panels contain as much era specific furniture, props, and accouterments as possible. Page two does this best with the bed, radio, light, and her clothes. The invader’s garb shows that he’s stocked well beyond this decade’s normal means. However, starting on Page 4, when the conflict gets physical, there’s a lot of wasted space. For example, the top third of the third panel is wasted, and the focus in the fourth suffers because of the inclusion of the setting–this panel should be pulled closer to Carter. Page 5 has some good moments, but panel three is wasting much of the space, and the fifth panel is wasting the top third to establish the ceiling. It’s not needed when the figure is thrown in that fashion. Things improve a bit in Stark’s office, though this is essential a talking heads scene. Ellis is good enough to move the point of view around very well, but here Peggy’s face changes often–it doesn’t look like the same person panel to panel. The bridge of her nose seems to be giving him the most pause. However, once the book moves to Russia, I was loving his work. The settings are amazing, the characters are much more consistent, and the science fiction elements so glaringly alien, I was taken. My favorite page was 12 because of what Tania actually did, compared to what she’s doing in the present. Outstanding, and no space wasted. I started worrisome, but felt assured by the end. I’m hopeful for the remainder of the series. Overall grade: B- 

The colors: When books are set in the 1950s or farther back, colorists often go to monochromatic colors to age the visuals. Jordan Boyd does this a bit, but he primarily colors the book in the tones that were representative of the time: browns and blacks. He opens the book with the restrained colors of the day: blue-green bath tile, a dull pink nighty, and blonde hair. As the lights get turned out, the colors become muted, even on the sounds, with those on Page 2 being a sick pale green. Bullet fire explodes the darkness with yellow and the sounds are a muted orange. Stark’s office is brown and tan, which were the colors of professional business then. Russia has these shades as well, but orange is also included as a background color. The sounds become brighter in Red Square, but the orange on the brown background muted them. The fireworks also blended in too much with the sky–I guess in Russia they only had access to orange and yellow aerial displays. The vehicle on the last page was a welcome change of a pace from everything, but, again, too much orange and yellow. The entire image just blobbed up because of this pair’s overuse. Boyd can do, and has done on other books, better. Overall grade: C+

The letters: A radio broadcast, dialogue, sounds, and a scene setting are accomplished by VC’s Joe Sabino. All are done well, though I think that Ellis inserted some of his own sounds, because Sabino has one panel where a crowd’s wails overlap a sound from a vehicle. I’ve not seen this is a book in years. Overall grade: B+

The final line: The visuals are acceptable, but the story has me hooked. I’ll return to this Marvel comic to see just what’s going on. Hopefully ABC’s Agent Carter has as good a story as this. Overall grade: B+

Patrick Hayes was a contributor to the Comic Buyer's Guide for several years with "It's Bound to Happen!" and he's reviewed comics for TrekWeb and TrekCore. He's taught 8th graders English for 20 years and has taught high school English for five years and counting. He reads everything as often as he can, when not grading papers or looking up Star Trek, Star Wars, or Indiana Jones items online.
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