“Spy Seal” is a character creator Rich Tommaso came up with as a kid and decided to make a comic out of. While the idea of an anthropomorphic seal who is also a secret agent may seem a little strange to some, the fact that it’s drawing on two notable series as influences makes it easy to get into. The dominant influence, from art style all the way down to trade dress, is Hegre’s classic “Tintin” stories, but the use of talking animals brings to mind “Usagi Yojimbo” as well. (Though that may say more about my tastes too since I can see others citing the duck-works of Carl Barks as inspiration here too.)
Aesthetically, the book is a clear home run. Tommasso has a very clean style that recall’s Hegre’s without feeling slavish to it. That’s due in large part to his animal character designs which are all distinct and very emotive too. The story’s European setting also helps the story stand out, while the action scenes are pretty nifty too.
Where “Spy Seal” falters is in the execution of its story. The title character is basically an ordinary seal who finds himself embroiled in a inter-continental caper after he’s recruited by MI-6 following an encounter with a Russian spy. A familiar setup, to be sure, but the story never really finds a proper rhythm. It’s either zipping along while the action plays out or getting bogged down with exposition as we’re told about cool stuff that we should’ve seen play out on the page. There’s even an awful cop-out in one scene where Spy Seal is plummeting to his death while tied to a seat only to show up fine two pages later. I admire what this series is trying to do and its overall style, but the storytelling isn’t quite there yet. Maybe in the next volume.