Spy Seal, Rich Tommaso’s delightful espionage series from Image Comics arrived in its third issue this week and with all the planes, trains, and automobiles of the first two issues, making it a comic themed on chase, there’s still been an underlying, bubbling theme: romance.
Our dashing, but at times quite bewildered, British seal Malcolm has had a lot on his hands to deal with chasing double-agents, but deep down it’s his relationship with his partner-in-spying, a bird named Kes, that’s keeping him a little on edge.
In this issue, all it takes is an opening shot of them sitting quietly in a train car, looking through photos and talking about their mission to get the sense there’s something between them. We know Malcolm turned down one relationship in the first issue, only to be called out for his attraction to Kes. That incident is replayed through flashback in this issue to keep it on our minds.
Kes is all business, though, and rightly so. Malcolm’s distraction over her in this issue does, arguably, lead to some mishaps, and as usual, Kes has to save the day. The title of this article, though, is meant to have a double-meaning.
After all the chase elements in the past couple of issues, I had been wondering where Tommaso could go from there to escalate physical danger? Well, this time it’s definitely falling from great heights. Which forms a nice commentary on Malcolm’s rough and tumble collapse into his feelings for Kes.
Because this is a story with anthropomorphic animals, each with their own relevant skill-set to their species, we get Kes, a bird who can fly, and their quarry, Miles McKeller, a buzzard-ish type who can also fly. That adds interesting dynamics to aerial pursuits, and also reminds us that Kes is more suited to this mission as a flyer than Malcolm the seal, who is quite often a seal out of water.
Tommaso really plays to the strengths of having animals as major characters, posing the “what ifs” of that really strongly in each issue, in a way that reminds me of the creativity behind his rapidly morphing plot elements in the series She Wolf.
In some moments, his Spy Seal characters seem knowingly human, and especially in this episode where Malcolm is pretty clearly lusting after Kes, but in other moments, they become these unknown creatures with fabulous super-powers really, that humans could never possess.
That’s part of what makes the funny, quirky comic Spy Seal so appealing. It operates on the surface of possibilities both human and fantastic and you’re never quite sure where Tommaso is going to take things. But watch out for those falls! He never said this was going to be a calm little story, despite the cute artwork.