The Illegitimates is the first comic book created by current Saturday Night Live cast member Taran Killam. A seven-issue miniseries co-written by Batwoman scribe Mark Andreyko with Kevin Sharpe on art duties, I know nothing else about it except that it apparently has something to do with spies and unwanted pregnancies. Is it good?
The Illegitimates #1 (IDW Publishing)
While the question of decompression in comics is worthy of discussion, I often find arguments regarding the subject to be oversimplified. Density can certainly be a desirable trait in a story when executed properly, but I don’t subscribe to the idea that a dense story is necessarily a good one, nor do I believe that decompressed writing (in comics or otherwise) is immediately indicative of poor writing, either. That being said, The Illegitimates #1 is a prime example of decompression that does not work.
I take no pleasure in saying that, because I really wanted to enjoy this comic. I’ve liked Taran Killam since he was on The Amanda Show when I was a kid, and he’s grown into one of the most consistently funny members of the current SNL cast. And with The Illegitimates, he’s created a concept that’s rich with dramatic and comedic potential: what if the careless promiscuity of a James Bond-type character actually had consequences? What kind of children could result from the DNA of a dashing superspy and the exotic femme fatales that he’s been screwing around with for decades?
Unfortunately, that’s about as far as we get in this issue, save for one significant twist that I won’t give away (even though it shouldn’t come as much of a surprise to most readers). We’re given twenty-plus pages to learn the basics of this reasonably compelling premise, and then we just have to hope that the creative team will actually do something funny or exciting with it in future issues. It’s a given that a #1 issue would be heavy on exposition, but there’s no reason why more couldn’t have been squeezed into this first chapter.
Again, I hate to oversimplify things, but this is one case where excessive decompression could have been avoided with one solution: smaller panels. Seriously, I wouldn’t say that for every comic, because there certainly is a place for big, “widescreen” panels when done right, but this issue doesn’t need them as much as it thinks. At best, it neuters the pacing, and at worst, it wastes precious time and space. For example, there are two montage sequences — one recalling secret agent Jack Steele’s various adventures and sexual trysts throughout the years, and the other introducing readers to his numerous illegitimate children — that could have easily been reduced by at least half. Taran Killam can be forgiven as a newcomer to comic book writing, but Mark Andreyko really should have known better.
- Strong premise
- Decent artwork by Kevin Sharpe, Diana Greenhalgh
- Fun little ride
- Decompression at its worst
- Fails to live up to its potential
My inability to find much information online about Kevin Sharpe leads me to believe that he is something of a newcomer as well, but I wish that he had made some better layout decisions too. Decompression aside, though, he’s actually not bad. His technique mostly seems to be informed by the likes of Bryan Hitch and Steve McNiven, but there’s a clear Howard Chaykin influence in the way that he draws faces and figures—especially when you look at his women.
Is it Good?
With an interesting concept and a solid creative team, The Illegitimates still has potential to spare, but this debut issue is inexcusably expository.