Kingsman: The Red Diamond #1
By Rob Williams, Simon Fraser, and Gary Caldwell
As the sequel to Matthew Vaughn’s crazy ode to the spy film subgenre, Kingsman: The Golden Circle, prepares to hit cinemas at the end of September, it’s no surprise a continuation of the source comic is released practically simultaneously. What is surprising is that Mark Millar and Dave Gibbons aren’t returning as the creative team! This is first time a Millarworld title, aside from the annuals, has brought in new creatives to continue an established property by Millar and his collaborators. Writer Rob Williams and artists Simon Fraser and Gary Caldwell step in to continue Eggsy’s story as a Kingsman.
As one would expect of a spy story, the young agent is called to action to save a member of the royal family. Of course, it’s handled in the most unorthodox fashion. This re-establishes the status quo, but it doesn’t take long for the real focus/theme to come into panel. To elaborate would give away key elements of this issue and the narrative as a whole, so it will be kept vague for now. Williams has found an interesting central conflict that has the potential to be a strong backbone for the comic and seems to alleviate some of this reviewer’s trepidation about a new writer taking over for Mark Millar. Rob Williams has done some really strong character work with his current run on Suicide Squad, so it’s no surprise he’s really focusing on the existential crisis Eggsy must face as he continues to be a Kingsman and live in the shadow of his uncle. He does have a strong voice in this issue, but sometimes it feels a bit tacked on.
Simon Fraser very much tries to make this as smooth a transition between his and Gibbons’ work, so much so that the page layouts are similar to what’s done in The Secret Service. Taking that into consideration, some leeway can be given to how this story is told visually, but it restricts it at the same time. The four/five panel textbook layout, doesn’t really deliver the impact of what this comic should convey to the audience. Dave Gibbons put so much detailed facial expressions and presentation into the panels that they made up for the simplistic composition. Fraser does deliver in detail, except for the main character, Eggsy. He just looks plain and his expressions are exaggerated, basically uninteresting. When secondary characters are far more intriguing and keep a reader’s attention that’s a problem, especially when the whole narrative hinges on connecting with the main character.
Overall, this comic is fairly uneven. What unfolds in the comic is fairly cliché, except for the thematic exposition, so it was left to the art team to deliver something visually sumptuous to captivate readers in Red Diamond, but it sadly never comes. Colorist Gary Caldwell tries his best to add depth and set the tone with shading and shadows, but it just seems heavy-handed, except for the epilogue for the comic where it works extremely well. It perfectly suits setting up the titular villain. Again, it just comes back to inconsistency.
There’s promise in this sequel, but the creative team needs to break from convention and really embrace experimenting with the material and make it their own. It just feels like they’re being strapped to a cold slab with a laser being aimed at them and they’re scared to make any wrong moves with the material, but like any good spy, they have to be resourceful and use the tools they have at their disposal and get a little creative. It’s worth a read, but just be prepared that it may not be as exciting or engrossing as one would hope it to be.