One Punch Reviews #47: Spy6teen

The James Bond movies have given the paying public a very glamorous portrayal of the spy life. When we think spies, we think about wearing awesome tuxedoes, driving half-a-million dollar cars, tossing off puns without people rolling their eyes… unless they’re rolling their eyes because of the .32 caliber bullet placed neatly between ’em.

“Do you mind if my friend sits this one out? She’s just dead.” A dud on the comedic circuit, but genius from the mouth of a superspy.

We never dwell told much about the more sordid side of espionage, though, and indignities that spies must suffer every day … like missing the prom, for example. Fortunately, we get such glimpses with Tim Simmons’ Spy6teen.

We open the story with Cally Calhoon trying to convince her class that she didn’t have a not bummer summer. Really, though, her alter-ego has been on globe-trotting adventures, fighting costumed villains, and dealing with Lovecraftian horrors. Under cover of being a mathlete (the perfect alibi; it’s such a boring club that it raises no suspicions), Cally is whisked away to a secret spy base that’s run by her uncle. Here, she’s outfitted with the latest in spy technology, such as a teleporter and hi-def sunglasses.

But despite living the life that Angeline Jolie wishes she could have, Cally is very unhappy. More than anything, she wants a normal life. She wants a boyfriend to hang out with and maybe join a club that she’s good at.

It’s kind of awkward, though, when it turns out nearly everyone in the school is either some superspy, supervillain, or supervillain lackey. I guess part of this is the fault of Cally’s uncle, who we’re told is hiding key information from her. But even Cally recognizes some faces that there are students with double lives in her school. So what is she whining about?

It makes her a bit of a spoiled brat … and one who’s got a victim complex. It’s kinda selfish to be wanting the undefined idea of a normal life when no one else seems to have it. Then again, maybe that’s the point. It’s, like, get over yourself, teenage superspy!

For a comic about a superspy, there’s very little action and a whole lot of moping. Most of the time, we see Cally wondering why she has not friends in high school, which, incidentally is ultra-generic. Want to guess what cliques make up Montauk High? I bet you get at least three out of five! It’s a little cliche … unless you consider the possibility that this whole high school is just an overtly artificial environment based on John Hughes films to cloak an installation meant to sustain a real world where everyone’s either a superspy or a supervillain!

We’re through the looking glass, people!

Rating: 3 stars (out of 5).


About El Santo

Somehow ended up reading and reviewing almost 300 different webcomics. Life is funny, huh? Despite owning two masks, is not actually a luchador.

Posted on June 14, 2011, in 3 Stars, action webcomic, adventure webcomic, One Punch Reviews, The Webcomic Overlook, webcomics. Bookmark the permalink. 15 Comments.

  1. I don’t think I’ll ever understand the American obsession with High School and teenagers.

    • It’s the same reason the Japanese are obsessed with it. Yet lacking the Japanese willingness to make porn about it.

      • Well, with the Japanese it’s because they view High School as the last place where they can really be themselves before growing up, being taken up into, and being forced to conform to, the Japanese society in general. In fact, the dividing line between old and young is a constantly recurring theme in Japanese fiction.

        But the same doesn’t count for individualistic America. My best guess is that High School is seen as some sort of coming of age ritual, where invaluable lessons are learned that will affect the rest of your life. Aside from the regular schooling, of course.

        • Nope. American High School is simply a fantasy world with rules that make no sense and a caste system reinforced by tv and movies. After graduation anyone who got caught up in the drama is forced to wake up to the reality that is life. It does nothing to prepare you for the real world and is not about growing up. Nothing that happens in high school matters once you graduate except you grades, and even those don’t matter any more once you get accepted into a college.

          It’s a cliche we could do without.

    • And super spies… what’s up with that?

    • From a writing perspective… it’s common ground. It’s a shared experience that just everyone has. So if you are instantly trying to get a reader to relate to a story then using a common setting is a good way to go about it.

      • That’s true, but the setting isn’t used in European fiction unless High Schoolers are the target group. And most American High School stuff places the main character in a clique. That is to say, a lot of that fiction doesn’t carry an appeal for people who excelled in sports when they were young.

        • That’s a good point. I think that I was involved in a discussion at one point about comics being about pretty much anything. I replied in the negative, mentioning that, for example, you don’t see many sports-related comics, despite seeing a lot of sports-centric fiction in other genres (movies and TV shows especially). The jocks are always pigeon-holed as the villains, though, in my high school experience, that wasn’t the case. I guess this has a lot to do with “the weird kids” carrying a chip on their shoulders and becoming writers, generally.

  2. Hey, Tim Simmons here, writer of Spy6teen.
    Well, first off, thanks for taking the time to read/review– sorry we were too Teencore for you (That’s what they call the genre of mopey teenage heroines. At least that’s the word I’m making up for it.)

    In general, I obviously have to respectfully disagree with your assessment of Cally having a victim complex– what you perceive as character flaw, I see as a portrait of a teenager stuck in circumstance she doesn’t want to be in. I get it though– as escapist fantasy, she should be having the grandest time ever– and she will, eventually…but from a storytelling perspective, she has to earn it– which is what the crux of this first volume is about.

    That’s also part of the reason that we aren’t zany balls-to-the-walls action packed. Whereas, again, I do disagree with you regarding your point that “there’s very little action”– We’re formatted as a print to web comic, so by the standard/modern comic book pace, we’re right on track– (Obviously, Issue 4, our “climax” will contain a lot more of the punchy than we’ve seen thus far…)

    I’ll cop to the John Hughes stylized high school– but hey, how many super-spy/super-heroine high school stories do you see with a fully realized/populated cast of students? Again, it’s something we’ll get to– but for our opening storyline, it’s a quick way of sketching out some tropes we can play with later. Personally, I don’t mind it either– At the end of the day, it’s a comic book– not a coming of age novel– also I like John Hughes movies.

    Again, thanks very much for the review– it feels to me that we just weren’t the book you wanted us to be, and that’s fine. We’re happy being the book that we are.

    To the commenters: Yeah, I agree both with Scott and Peit on their points. It also probably has a lot to do with America’s obsession with youth. And that oft times Adult readers have a yearning to look back to (seemingly) simpler times. That’s my take at least, but hey, I’m probably not the right person to ask, since I am an American and I’m writing in a High School setting.

  3. I’m confused as to why so many media with teenage protagonists have this bizarre fixation with being “normal”, especially ones where the protagonists have special stuff or powers. It’s like “you get to shoot lasers out of your eyes, stop whining about not going to the prom!”

  4. The highschool I went to, in Australia, never had ‘cliques’. ‘Goths’ hung out with ‘jocks’ hung out with ‘nerds’ hung out with the ‘musos’ and the ‘artsy folk’, or whatever stereotype is used to address people with particular tastes and talents. I can never take such stories seriously.

    Oh and I guess the fact that she’s 16 and a super spy takes away from my suspension of disbelief too.

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