I’m going to guess you’re at least somewhat familiar with James Bond (if not, Wikipedia is your friend). Gadgets, fancy suits, shootouts, bizarre villains, one liners, martinis – shaken, not stirred, of course – Bond, James Bond is easily one of the most recognisable cultural icons of the last 50 years.
Imagine that James Bond had a nephew. Not just any nephew, but one trapped in a cycle of poverty, who lives in state housing in one of London’s poorest districts and likes to steal cars for fun. Now, imagine that Bond decided that the best path forward for this troubled nephew was to become a secret agent, just like Uncle James.
That, in a nutshell, is the story that Kingsman: The Secret Service tells. Gary, or “Eggsy”, is unemployed, and, when he’s not protecting his mother from an abusive stepdad and looking after his younger half-brother, he’s out with his gang causing trouble. After stealing a car and getting caught by the police, Gary finds himself in lockup, and not for the first time. His uncle, a Fraud Squad officer by the name of Jack London, shows up to free him. Again, not for the first time.
Only, Jack’s Fraud Squad position is just a cover, and seeing some potential in Gary, he reveals the truth – he’s actually a secret agent, and he wants Gary to be one too. Reluctantly, Gary agrees, and the next day he leaves with Jack to join the Secret Service’s training facility.
What transpires from there is exactly what you’d expect, a clash of two very different lifestyles. With his street background, Gary’s a rare breed at the academy, which is populated almost exclusively by wealthy people from upper-class families. This dichotomy is often funny, and at times hints at a meaningful exploration of class conflict in British society – though these elements tend to get glossed over in favour of high-octane fun.
And that’s something that the book delivers in spades. If you like spy-centric action stories like James Bond, you’ll find Kingsman right up your alley; if you don’t, you won’t. There’s very little here that comes as a surprise, and it sticks closely to conventions of the genre. It also suffers from pacing woes; the majority of the book is focused on the setup, which leads to a conclusion that feels rushed and not quite as satisfying as it should be.
Artwork, too, sticks to the tried and true, to the point that there’s not really much to say about it. It’s not bad by any means (aside from the occasional shot where awkward angles make someone’s face look a bit off), but nothing about it stands out, either. The colouring is quite bright, adding to the fun factor of the action, and the choreography of the fights (plentiful) is decent, but not remarkable.
Like I said before – this is very much a book that sticks closely to the spy action formula. If that’s your niche, you’ll probably love Kingsman: The Secret Service, but don’t expect anything life-changing.