If I had to sum up my feelings on The Illegitimates thus far in a single sentence, it would be, “Meh, decent enough;” however, that’s not quite enough for a review, so I’ll expand a bit.
The premise, if you’ll recall from Issue #1, is that British super-agent Jack Steele, who is James Bond in everything but his name, has been killed in action. So, his many illegitimate children must now step up to take his place in order to stop the nefarious criminal mastermind from enacting his dastardly plan and taking over and/or destroying the world (or whatever he’s planning on doing; the actual plan is mostly incidental in this type of story).
In the previous issue, we barely got a chance to get to know anything about these Illegitimates as individuals, aside from their names, where they’re from, and what each of their specialties is. In Issue #2, we see a bit more of what they’re actually like and what they can do . . . and I still feel like I don’t really know any of them. There are five of them, total, so there’s really not enough time to spend on any one individually, especially not when we also still need to check in with the people in charge of the secret agency bringing them all together, and the villain and his nefarious plans. So, offspring of Jack Steele, much discussed as a group, are still little more than names and talents as individuals.
One of the problems is that the comic doesn’t focus on any one of them for more than a few panels at a time. It switches back and forth quite quickly between one scene and another, giving us only a brief taste before moving on. Another issue is that, so far, what little space each character is given isn’t used very effectively. Most of this issue is spent gathering together these five Illegitimates from all corners of the Earth, bringing them to Headquarters, and explaining the situation to them. But, since we already had the situation explained to us last issue, there’s little, if any, new information or insight conveyed to us during this process.
This is not a bad title, though. It’s also not a great title. It’s decent enough, but nothing special. And, it lacks focus. The comic is billed as a comedy/satire, and the rather outlandish premise, and the fact that it’s created by noted comedian Taran Killam (MADtv, SNL, et al.) would seem to support that, but it doesn’t come off as humorous—or even as trying to be humorous and failing. Admittedly, some scenes are a bit ridiculous and over-the-top, but so is just about every Bond movie ever made. If there’s any attempt here to lampoon or parody that, it doesn’t come across at all. It just plays like a straight spy story, which would be fine, except that it’s only so-so in that regard, too. The action isn’t that thrilling or intense, and we don’t know any of these characters well enough to get invested in what happens to them.
There are some really great spy comics out there right now that are worth reading. Velvet is another twist on the James Bond story, which has great action, a clever and well-written plot, and a well-developed main character who’s easy to root for. And, of course, my favorite, Danger Girl, succeeds on the satire front by drawing attention to the over-the-top nature of stories like this with a wink and a nod. It also helps that it’s smartly written with great action.
So far, The Illegitimates has yet to distinguish itself in its writing, its action, or its humor. It’s a decent enough comic with an interesting premise, but it doesn’t really deliver on it. If you like spy comics and are intrigued by the premise, you might enjoy The Illegitimates #2, but do yourself a favor and check out Velvet and Danger Girl, as well. They have so much more to offer.