About the Book

Title: The Secret Service: Kingsman (Kingsman #1)
Published: 2012
Series: Kingsman
Swoonworthy Scale: 1

Cover Story: What’s in a Name?
BFF Charm: Meh
Talky Talk: Sausage Fest
Arty Art: Bloody Good Time
Bonus Factors: Spy Realism, Celebrities
Relationship Status: Friends with Benefits

Cover Story: What’s in a Name?

Oh look, an English lad with neither proper gun-holding nor shoelace-tying technique, and some shadowy besuited dude looking on approvingly. This cover’s pretty boring for the story it’s representing.

The comic receives a slight name switcheroo for its upcoming adaptation, going from The Secret Service: Kingsman to Kingsman: The Secret Service. A change for the better, since the emphasis on the Secret Service makes me think of that Secret Service.

The Deal:

After a run-in with the law, Gary is bailed out by his Uncle Jack and offered an opportunity to finally make something of his life: join the family business and become a super-spy for MI6.

Meanwhile, a bunch of celebrities have been disappearing, and matrimony turns murderous with a massacre worthy of being a modern-day Red Wedding. How exactly are these strange incidents connected?

BFF Charm: Meh

BFF charm with a :-| face

Gary’s had a rough life, and rookie-learns-the-ropes is a classic trope. But I didn’t find Gary himself to be all that interesting. Then again, it’s tough for your personality to make a dent when you’re paired up with a fully-formed super-spy like the Most Interesting Man in the World, aka Uncle Jack.

Swoonworthy Scale: 1

There really isn’t any swoon in the way of love interests — there might even be negative swoon — but Uncle Jack can get it. A dapper gentleman with a sense of duty and honour who looks out for his family? HUMINA. 

Talky Talk: Sausage Fest

Look, I don’t buy into the whole Girl Book vs. Boy Book bullshizz. But there is A LOT of testosterone here, and ladies are practically an afterthought: Gary’s mom is stuck in a relationship with an abusive jerkhole, and the only other notable woman is the gf of the Big Bad Villain. Although women are severely underrepresented (and somewhat poorly, since the ones that do exist are basically damsels in distress), the story does try to have it both ways — not giving female characters a lot to do, while trying not to look like a jerk — by having the Big Bad Villain be the beacon of misogyny. So it knows what the distinction is; it’s just not doing anything about it.

There are some stories that inherently feature more male characters than female ones, and that’s perfectly fine. But there’s nothing about this premise that requires a mostly male cast. Couldn’t there have been even just one female spy in the periphery? Preferably one that doesn’t become romantically involved with Gary or Jack? Or, hell — even if all she does is supply gadgets, that’d still be an improvement. (Yes, scraps. I am even asking for scraps!) How quickly we forget the immortal words of one of America’s greatest living poets: “Ladies is pimps too, go and brush your shoulders off.”

Arty Art: Bloody Good Time

The artwork is vivid and vibrant, none more so than all the spilled blood on the pages — of which there is A LOT. The story dives right in with the carnage, so you’ll figure out pretty quickly if this kind of thing is for you or not. 

Bonus Factor: Spy Realism

Mysterious man in a suit lighting a cigar

As outlandish as this premise might be, Gary’s spy training is v. rooted in realism. It takes more than a quick montage for him to learn the tricks of the trade.

Bonus Factor: Celebrities

I generally like fictional depictions of celebrities (MATT DAMON!), so I was amused by how this story uses its famous cameos. And further amused when at least one of them will be in the movie, albeit not playing themselves. (There’s basically no way in hell the comic cameos would have made it into the movie as they were.)

Relationship Status: Friends with Benefits

The kind of fun I have with this graphic novel doesn’t really stand up to scrutiny or in-depth analysis, but we have a good time when I need to scratch an itch. (An absurd and violent itch, but an itch nonetheless.) I’m looking forward to what this comic will be like in its next life as a movie, and finding out whether it’ll make that leap from FWB to something more.

FTC Full Disclosure: I borrowed my review copy from the public library, and I received a Curtis Jackson overdue fine because of it. I received neither money nor froyo for writing this review (dammit!). The Secret Service: Kingsman is available now.

Mandy (she/her) lives in Edmonton, AB. When she’s not raiding the library for YA books, she enjoys eating ice cream (esp. in cold weather), learning fancy pole dance tricks, and stanning BTS. Mandy has been writing for FYA since 2012, and she oversaw all things FYA Book Club from 2013 to 2023.