Super Spy Vol. 2: The Lost Dossiers by Matt Kindt

Posted by on March 22nd, 2010 at 2:10 PM

Top Shelf Productions; 96 pp.; $12.95; Color; Softcover (ISBN: 9781603090438)

Matt Kindt’s Super Spy was one of my favorite graphic novels of 2007.  When I originally reviewed it, I wrote:

Kindt’s long-running online comic is a stunning collection of cleverly designed vignettes, each featuring subtle character work and intricately crafted espionage tales. The book is not, strictly speaking, one coherent narrative, but like its subject matter, it operates as a sort of secret code which requires a second reading, in non-sequential order, to fully appreciate … This is a book I could actually see myself going back and reading for a third time.

When I heard Kindt was following up Super Spy with The Lost Dossiers, I did just that, and I’m glad I did.  Unless you have a photographic memory, rereading the original Super Spy is pretty much a prerequisite for fully enjoying The Lost Dossiers.

The Lost Dossiers is not a sequel, per se, but more like the graphic novel equivalent of the bonus disc in a DVD box set.  It’s hardly essential; however, for fans of the original, there’s more than enough “bonus features” to make it worth the price.

Throughout the book, Kindt scatters all kinds of behind-the-scenes craft stuff, like thumbnails, sketchbook pages, promotional postcards, photos of his studio, script annotations, and extra pinup art, including some commissioned pieces he did while working on Super Spy. There’s also some interesting aerial surveillance photos Kindt found at an estate sale, which the artist says “inspired the look of the” original book. Falling into the “kitchen sink” category, Kindt even tosses in some random, non-Super Spy ephemera, like illustrations of characters from his favorite novels (including an excellent drawing of J.D. Salinger’s Franny and Zooey, a personal favorite), a cinematic sketch of Cary Grant, an X-Men pinup and a self-portrait.

The Lost Dossiers does contain several new stories as well.  The first, entitled simply “The Treasure,” may be Kindt’s most ambitious experiment yet.  It’s a fun, Chris Ware-inspired strip comprised of 72 numbered panels which must be cut out and arranged according to a map.  The intersecting narratives work like a crossword puzzle, branching off in several different directions, but the story cannot be fully appreciated without actually assembling these panels according to the instructions.  Since it’s unlikely most readers will want to destroy their book, making photocopies of these pages is recommended.  This might seem like a pain, but the novelty is definitely worth the effort.

“Seven Days,” another new spy tale, is a “3-D story” that requires readers to cross their eyes to view the images (rather than use 3-D glasses).  Each page contains two identical panels, placed adjacent to each other, with a single caption of text.  I admit I had trouble seeing the images in 3-D, but the bleak story, which focuses on a ruthless agent who sells her soul to obtain valuable information about a munitions factory, makes clever use of Kindt’s aerial photos.

“Elle’s Journal,” the most substantial of the new stories in The Lost Dossiers, serves as a reminder that Kindt is a pretty good writer.  Structured as the secret journal of one of the female spies from the original graphic novel, the story mixes diary entries with sketches, as we get a deeper perspective on one of the main plots in the original book.

The highlight is “Chief,” a non-spy story that Kindt created “as a birthday present for a friend.”  It features five diary entries (scrawled on torn sheets of notebook paper taped atop the art), one each from a different member of a circus sideshow, laying bare their tangled relationships and private thoughts about their fellow performers.  It also showcases Kindt’s greatest strength as a writer – capturing authentic voices in somber, personal reflection.  The sideshow, with its freaks and grotesqueries, is a concept that plays to all of Kindt’s strengths as an artist, and it would be great to see him go deeper into this world, although there’s no indication this is anything other than a standalone short story.

In addition to all the formalist tricks and design experiments, Kindt’s artwork is frequently lovely, mixing sweeping brushstrokes with muted watercolors, and the sepia toned paper adds to the weathered feel of the book, as if this scattered collection really had survived a war.

One of the key ingredients that made the original Super Spy so compelling was all the narrative experiments, innovative page layouts and diverse visual techniques that Kindt used to tell the various stories of his spy characters.  The Lost Dossiers follows in that tradition.  Fans of the original book will find plenty to enjoy in this new behind-the-scenes collection, but for those unfamiliar with the first book, this is not the place to start.

Be Sociable, Share!

Tags: ,

Comments are closed.