Agent 1.22 #2
Tom Dheere, Angelo Panetta, David Martin (Creators), Stephan Nilson (Writer), Doug Shuler (Artist), Charles Pritchett (Letters), Liz Bradley (Design)
September 28, 2017
Agent 1.22 began life as a web series and has since spun-off into a four-part comic series. The second issue was released in September of 2017. The series follows the titular Agent 1.22, a cyborg who was once a living, breathing human being. She is deployed for the most dangerous missions by a shadowy organisation known only as The Agency. Between missions, Agent 1.22 remains in stasis. When she’s awoken, mission parameters are downloaded into her implants.
At the start of this book, Agent 1.22 is MIA. The Agency isn’t sure where she is exactly because the ship she travels on, the Mnemosyne, has gone offline. At Mission Control, The Agency is deeply concerned. Dr Matt Henning, Agent 1.22’s handler, who may have some history with her, goads his team into doing whatever necessary to get the Mnemosyne back online so they can contact Agent 1.22.
In the midst of this chaos enters Agency Director Kalter demanding an immediate update on the situation. There is no love lost between Henning and Kalter and the two play out a verbal duel before Henning manages to escape the situation by having his second-in-command lie for him. Before then, Kalter manages to slip in some serious doubts about Agent 1.22’s stability and Henning’s objectivity with regards to her.
Meanwhile, Agent 1.22 is defending herself against zombie-like intruders on Mnemosyne. She is helped by some medical robots that seem to be controlled by a group known as the Abolitionists. What their ultimate purpose is for rescuing Agent 1.22 is as yet unclear. But just as things seem to be picking up, Agent 1.22 and her new friends encounter new and hostile forces.
Issue #1 received high praise from Pop Culture HQ and Pullbox, but the second entry hasn’t quite captured the successes of the first. This issue relies heavily on exposition, and characters are fairly verbose throughout. The dialogue doesn’t flow as easily as it should, and I did notice a few typos and missing words in the text.
Despite being the title character, Agent 1.22 shows up ten pages into this 26-page book. The initial focus is on Henning and Kalter’s interactions. This threw me off as a reader as I wanted to know more about the series’ protagonist.
Unlike the first comic in which Agent 1.22 begins to learn about herself and to question her orders, thus taking matters into her own hands, in this book, she is limited to being the muscle of the cast. However, even then, she is unable to defend herself successfully and ends up having to be rescued by the medical robots. She appears to have little agency, which is a shame because she is a fascinating character.
There is also the disconcerting prevalence of the sexualised robot trope in this book. Agent 1.22 is completely nude for the bulk of her appearance, as well as during her fight scenes with multiple enemies. While that may not be problematic in itself, she is drawn in poses that often straddle the line between fearsome and sexual. One must question whether a male character in a similar situation would have been drawn the same way.
In the first comic, we were privy to some of Agent 1.22’s backstory, relayed through flashbacks, promising more discoveries in the future. Unfortunately, we only get the tiniest of hints to a past relationship between Agent 1.22 and Dr Henning, and nothing more. Agent 1.22 continues to be elusive to readers. Considering this is the second installment of a four-part series, the writers will have a lot to pack into the final two books.
Having said all that, there is one aspect of this book that really stands out: the gorgeous visuals. Using computer generated design, the creators of this series have given us a visual text that is immediately arresting. It is clear that the writers have built a rich world for this story, and the graphics bring them to life marvelously. The previous comic had some run-ins with the uncanny valley, but this problem has been all but overcome here. Each character has distinct features with a stunning level of detail drawn in their faces. The fight scenes are particularly mesmerising and pop right off the page. It’s practically like watching a film.
A combination of beautiful visuals, intriguing characters, and a strong sense of mystery make issue #2 of Agent 1.22 a solid, if not remarkable read. Though this story fails to live up to the success of the first book, there is still enough here to keep us captivated and excited for what comes next.