The Illegitimates has a great conceit: What if a super-secret spy, akin to James Bond, traveled around the world saving the day and sleeping with women, but didn’t use the proper protection? Enter recently deceased secret agent Jack Steele’s five illegitimate children, now young adults who have no idea of their father’s identity. Saalinge, Kiken, Vin, Charlie, and Leandros all have unique, highly specialized skills and interesting backstories, but the one thing they don’t have is any idea of how to work as a team, much less be siblings. Brought together by Olympus, the secret organization that employed Steele, to take down his arch nemesis Dannikor, there is more than a little sibling rivalry, and that is a large part of what makes this book so much fun. The banter, jokes, and sarcasm thrown back and forth between these newly minted brothers and sisters and the ways in which they team up or are at odds with each other makes for wonderfully entertaining dialogue and an ever-changing character dynamic.
The other part of The Illegitimates that makes it such a blast is the secret agent element. The book is full of spy tropes and themes, and since the story is played straight, Killam and Andreyko get to poke fun at the genre while also exploiting some of its more bombastic conventions, as well as turn some of those conventions on their heads due to specific characters’ choices and actions. Kevin Sharpe’s pencils and Diana Greenhalgh and John Livesay’s inks create a world that is strong and bold, one where action is required, because the enemy is always on the move. The characters are sinewy, sexy, at times skimpily attired, and this style is heightened even more by Peter Pantazis’ colors, which are bright and glossy, glazing everything with a sleek shine. All of this fits into the secret agent genre, a genre that oozes sex appeal and sleek gadgets, so it is fun to see a book play in that territory, but do it in a tongue-in-cheek kind of way. It presents a gorgeous reality that we know doesn’t exist because it is completely unrealistic, so it is even easier for us to buy into the villain’s nefarious schemes and the complex machinations of Olympus.
If you are a fan of secret agents, stories about strange families thrust into even stranger situations, high tech gadgets and vehicles, all with a comedic slant, then check out The Illegitimates. It also may help you work out some of your personal issues before you attend that family reunion you have coming up. If The Illegitimates teaches us anything, it’s that teamwork is great, but family work can save the world. So, call your siblings and tell them you’ve got their backs, and then tell them to stay out of trouble, because you don’t know how to fight, you just like to read comic books.