Activity #1

Written by Nathan Edmondson
Art by Mitch Gerads
32 pages, color
Published by Image Comics

Nathan Edmondson is rapidly becoming "that guy who writes special agent comics" in my head. His mini-series Who is Jake Ellis? was one of my favorite surprises of 2011, and his Grifter series is entertaining me over at DC Comics. Both comics have fantastical elements at their core, though, which makes The Activity stand out that much more from the rest. Here, Edmondson and artist Mitch Gerads are telling straight-forward covert operations stories, and in an industry dominated by superheroes and other larger-than-life elements, The Activity stands out by virtue of not having any extra trappings.

Edmondson utilizes a tried-and-true technique of introducing us to the premise behind The Activity by following a new team-member as she’s added to Team Omaha. We get to see not only the end of one operation, but the start of a new one as well. Edmondson seems to be focusing more here on how the team gets their work done and interacts with one another, and less with the mission itself in this first issue. They’re certainly efficient, repainting a car and destroying burning the contents of file cabinets from a distance courtesy a sniper laser. What is this accomplishing, aside from destroying some files? We’re not sure, actually; hopefully this is just the first stage of the mission and subsequent issues will shed a little more light on the subject.

But, as mentioned earlier, at least for now the focus seems to be more on them existing as a unit rather than what the unit is doing. You definitely get the impression that the other team members know each other well and respect one another. It is fun to watch two characters pretending to have a romantic tryst in order to covertly dispose of a bag of supplies; perhaps unnecessarily complicated, but the grace and ease in which they do so sticks with you. And as they give new member Leslie her code name, you get a strong impression that this is less a team of people that work together and more a family.

The stand-out part of The Activity #1, though, is Mitch Gerads’ art. It feels like a mixture between Adam Hughes and Chris Sprouse; the faces and attention to detail of Hughes, but with that slight edge in the line that is a hallmark of Sprouse. When the book opens showing the team finishing a mission in Mexico City, it just looks fantastic; the water from the sprinklers raining down on the characters in the meticulously drawn cafe, the Omaha team members looming over the target, the shift to outside with the gentle glow of lights against the night air. As each new setting appears, Gerads has a new look for it; crisp and dry for the desert, gleaming and shiny for the offices in Fort Belvoir, bright and sunny in Rome. In some ways it’s Gerads’ art that makes me overlook the gaps in the story; everything just looks so great that it’s hard to find yourself worrying too much about what we’re still in the dark.

The Activity #1 is a good first issue, but the missing pieces of the story (what exactly the team is up to, or characterization for the bulk of the team) need to be addressed in future installments. Still, it’s refreshing to see a covert operations story focusing on just that, avoiding any additional trappings to try and drag in additional readers. In terms of writing, that alone is enough to sell me on checking out a second issue. Fortunately, with art as great as Gerads’, there’s no doubt in my mind that I’ll be on board for another helping. Edmondson has a knack for working with great artists like Tonci Zonjic and CAFU, and Gerads definitely qualifies for that adjective as well. I’ll be curious to see where this goes next.

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