Once in a great while there comes along a writer that really understands and excels within a genre, others like Warren Ellis, have a genre that they essentially "own." With Nathan Edmondson it’s clearly the Spy/Espionage genre that he not only understands, but is able to craft a new breed of story for a new generation of fans. The Activity shares many first issue elements with Edmondson’s first Image series Who Is Jake Ellis; a strong opening with action and a hook that keeps you reading. The story begins in Mexico City, with our team creating a diversion in a restaurant with the sprinkler system. This causes one man and his guards to cautiously exit through the kitchen when the lights go out on them. The switch is flipped again and the man finds himself at the mercy of two people dressed as staff and all of his guards disabled. They drug him and take him to the Chihuahuan Desert and hand him off to an unseen man, who attempts to guess their division of the military. Alas, one of the many secrets of this book.
After that we see the team members that include Weatherman, Bookstore, Speakeasy and Switchfoot prepping for their next mission and a new team member. Their mission is to clean up after a sloppy CIA agent that left behind a car and an office of paper work that could reveal him and the US government. That and figure out a nickname for the new person.
The pacing for The Activity is that of a tv show, with a cold open leading into the typical three act structure. But The Activity would never work as a tv show based on one production element… budget. With a comic the budget is endless and frankly if this was a TV show it would be cancelled after six episodes, but not before Fox dumped a ton of money into it. The set places for this story are endless which is apparent in this first issue alone. Each new setting gets this very cool bar on the left hand side of the page. Think of any spy movie when location data runs across the bottom of the screen, but instead this is elegantly worked in and comes across cool.
Edmondson comes out strong with this issue and frankly it’s some of his best work thus far. The issue almost seems like a love note to spy movies, with a panel that seems like it was swiped from the first Mission Impossible. The true strength of the story is that Edmondson adds elements of other genres to the book, including the heist/con genre. That added element mixes up the story in a way that truly has me interested in what can come next in this comic.
Let’s be honest, a comic is only as good as the art and Edmondson has found another talented artist to work with in Mitch Gerads. If Edmondson is at the top of this genre at writing, directly across from him is Gerads name in the art department. One page in particular highlights how powerful his art is and his ability as a storyteller. The page shows the team removing a body from a helicopter which is very simple, but the addition of a sunset and a close up on the characters faces spread out in a line, is very moving and well-crafted.
If you missed Who Is Jake Ellis then do not miss The Activity, not only does this book have the same level of excitement, but Edmondson has already hinted that this series has legs meaning it’s not going anywhere. If you’ve been reading any of the New 52 books dealing with clandestine groups and spies, then do yourself a favor and pick up a true “spy” book and see what the world outside of spandex is really like.
Writer: Nathan Edmondson Artist/Letter: Mitch Gerads Publisher: Image Comics Release Date: 12/21/11