Writer: Ted Anderson
Illustrator: Gianna Meola
Publisher: Graphic Universe
WHAT IS IT?
A coming-of-age spy drama about a teenage girl's journey to escape her super-spy mother's control and unlock her hidden potential.
A combination of the paranoia of Bourne Identity and the power fantasy and quips of Spider-Man, The Spy Who Raised Me is a thrill ride for all ages.
WHAT’S IT ABOUT?
Josie is a seemingly average high school student, a perpetual runner-up in sports with average suburban parents, and barely scraping by in class. Unbeknownst to her, she's actually a deep cover operative working missions alongside her mother, Betty, who uses various programmed phrases to keep Josie in line. Raised for the sole purpose to serve "The Company's wishes," Josie was never meant to have a life of her own, but thanks to one slip in her routine command phrases, that veil is now lifted.
What starts as a desire to learn more about her hidden life quickly escalates into a game of cat and mouse with her own mother who's not too pleased about her daughter's awakening. With her best friend, Zoe, by her side, they must navigate the murky waters of international espionage and outrun Josie's cold-blooded mother to earn her freedom. Will Josie escape her programming? Can she best her super-spy mother at her own game?
Ted Anderson crafts a narrative that's enjoyable for all ages with exciting action, well-timed quips, and embodying the spirit of our rebellious "teen years" into a spy action/adventure.
Gianna Meola's layouts are excellent throughout, allowing for a smooth reading experience whether it's a four-panel or eight-panel page. There's a rhythm in Gianna's pages where you find yourself gliding from one page to the next without hesitation.
Meola's monochromatic color scheme shines brightest during nighttime scenes and environments with plenty of shadows, thanks to the red tones popping right off the page which contrast with the dark backgrounds.
The Spy Who Raised Me gives readers enough information about Josie's past to buy into the story from the beginning only to routinely subvert everything you thought you knew about her life as the plot progresses.
Anderson and Meola nailed the story's tone, using action and quips to keep the tone entertaining, but also know when to slow it down for a beat for Josie to process the emotional and psychological trauma that's been inflicted upon her.
Josie is a wonderful teen protagonist, starting her journey out as an "underachiever" and eventually finding her inner confidence to become the person that was buried within. The journey was completely organic and grants the story loads of unexpected emotional depth.
By contrast, Betty is such a sadistic antagonist for the implication alone that she's forced her daughter into a predetermined role for her entire life. She's an emotional vacuum, operating solely from the principle of "the ends justify the means" and shutting down anything that deviates from her goals.
Josie's confrontation with her father was a heartbreaking sequence that shows the casual cruelty Betty is capable of.
The final confrontation between Josie and Betty is a fitting end for Josie's journey with some well-timed narration working in tandem with the artwork to show how far Josie's progressed from the story's beginning.
SPOILER: The twist of Betty and Josie being sleeper agents for the Banger Soda Company to increase their market capitalization is such a twisted idea for an espionage tale.
WHAT DOESN’T WORK?
Content Warning: This story contains some implications of emotional child abuse with select scenes.
While the pacing is strong throughout, there is a portion where the story sags. During the second fight with Josie and Betty, the story's pace slows to depict a drawn-out fight between the two that, while entertaining from an art standpoint, comes across as gratuitous to the narrative.
Some SFX feel excessive, such as "sneak" when the context of the scene is already clear from the artwork.
There are some instances where it is ambiguous as to who is meant to be speaking first with an initial word balloon being on the top right of a page, even though the reader will naturally read the word balloons to the left first.
WHY SHOULD I READ IT?
The Spy Who Raised Me is a thoroughly entertaining coming-of-age story using tropes from the spy genre to put a fresh spin on the teen underachiever archetype. Anderson's witty dialogue and Meola's brisk layouts work to deliver an all-ages comic that's equal parts fun and emotional.
While the second fight with Josie and Betty may have been long in the tooth, The Spy Who Raised Me more than makes up for it with Josie's well-executed character arc of finding the inner strength to be her own person. If you're looking for a fresh spin on the espionage and coming of age genres respectively, then The Spy Who Raised Me is the comic you've been waiting for.
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All Graphic Universe characters and the distinctive likeness(es) thereof are trademarks of and copyright Ted Anderson, Gianna Meola, and Graphic Universe, 2021 or their respective owners. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED