Super Spy (Top Shelf)

superspy-header.jpgSt. Louis’ own Matt Kindt brings an experimental flair to the world of espionage.


335 pgs. B&W; $19.95

(W / A: Matt Kindt)


Espionage is a perfect comic book idea. The spy genre easily lends itself to sex, style, violence and intrigue (though not necessarily in that order) and 20th century politics give the stories a healthy dose of realism. Really, a spy story practically writes itself into a standard comic adventure.


But St. Louisan Matt Kindt didn’t make a traditional spy comic. He didn’t make a traditional comic at all. Instead, he combined the spy genre with the independent comic aesthetic to make a collection of interconnected stories that are traditional enough to be nostalgia, but experimental enough to be brilliant.


The cover to Super Spy by Matt Kindt. Click thumbnail for a larger image.Super Spy explores the secret lives of spies in the Second World War. Through over thirty chapters (or dossiers as they’re called) Kindt tells tales of war, love, deception and violence all underscored by the birth of modern espionage. Some of the chapters, like the ones about a woman trading sex for secrets, are sad. Others, like the ones about advanced spy gear proving disadvantageous, are funny. Still others are heartwarming or romantic. Many are violent. All are great.


With art that fits the period but remains undeniably contemporary and a mind that crafts clever pre-Cold War tales, Kindt is able to not only bring several characters to life in a short time, but also to make them evoke serious emotions in readers. Some authors struggle for pages, chapters, or lifetimes to do this, but Kindt handles it fairly well relatively quickly.


The downside to Super Spy is one shared by lots of spy stories: it’s a little dense. Sometimes the epiphany of how two characters are connected overshadows a major plot development, while other times the details come too small and too often, and the reader gets caught flipping through previously read pages, searching for secrets.


Of course, that flaw also makes the book a rewarding read. While it isn’t the most challenging graphic novel out there, getting through it and understanding every aspect of the story is an accomplishment. Of course, the book is so well done that the sheer pleasure of reading it is enough to overcome plot confusion. | Gabe Bullard

Click here for a 6-page preview of Super Spy courtesy of Top Shelf!

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