Comic Review – Art Ops #1

  • Writer: Shaun Simon
  • Art: Michael Allred
  • Colors: Laura Allred
  • Letters: Todd Klein
  • Publisher: Vertigo Comics
  • Release Date: October 28, 2015

Imagine a world where art could come to life and walk out of its frame with a little prodding.

In Art Ops #1, we get a glimpse of what can happen when art is pulled free from its frame and released into the world at large. There’s a secret world out there of agents that pull the famous figures of works of art out of their frames and off of their pedestals and bring them to life. It’s sort of like an art version of the Witness Protection Program.

Why are these agents going through all of that trouble?

That’s one question that doesn’t really get answered in this first issue.

Art Ops #1 opens two years before the main story with our agents pulling the subject of Leonardo Da Vinci’s The Mona Lisa out of her frame in the Louvre. All around the world, famous works of art are being stolen and destroyed and it’s the job of Art Operations to protect who they can. Taking the painting’s (kind of rude) subject into custody in what’s supposed to be something like an art version of the Witness Protection/Relocation Program, they leave an operative behind in her place.

Art Ops #1 cover art by Michael Allred

At the same time in New York City, Art Ops’ head Gina Jones’ son Reggie is busy screwing around and drinking with his girlfriend Jess. From the start, we can tell that he’s got issues that start with his mother neglecting him. It’s kind of obvious considering how he goes off on a three panel rant about how his mother treated him while in her bed before pointing out that maybe, just maybe, the high from earlier has worn off.

There’s a realistic note to this that kind of offsets the rest of the book. Reggie’s mommy issues ground the series and serve as a constant from his first appearance in the opening issue to his last. The world in Art Ops may be strange but thankfully, there’s the normalcy of Reggie dealing with his mother’s neglect and how she muscles her way into his life at the worst moments. It would be easy to write Reggie of as a spoiled young man (something I found myself doing initially), but the easy way out isn’t always the best.

After that bit of exposition, things start to speed up.

In this world where art can come alive, what does that mean for graffiti? Considering how the paint leaps off the wall and assaults Reggie and his would-be dealer down in The Bowery, it doesn’t mean anything good. Mona Lisa had to be taken out of her frame, but for something that isn’t constrained by a frame in the first place, things are a little murky.

What actually keeps all art in this universe from jumping on someone? Does what happened to the graffiti happen to other forms of art? Could your kid’s refrigerator art come to life and kill you for all of the snide comments you make about it after your kid is asleep?

These are the hard hitting questions, I’m sure.

After losing his girlfriend to a stray bullet and an arm to the graffiti – and Art Ops’ strange idea of medical care – Reggie wakes up with art for an arm and the idea that he’s now a monster. It’s easy to understand why he thinks that way.

That’s actually probably the easiest thing to understand about this book, let’s be real.

After the flash-forward to the present day, nothing makes sense. All of the Art Operatives go missing in a two-page spread and that’s left is Reggie, Mona Lisa, and The Body. The entire organization is gone (they’ve probably been sucked into a painting) and the only person that Gina Jones can think of to replace her as head of Art Ops is the son who hates her.


That’s probably not going to go down well. One of the things that’s sure to be worth sticking around for is the relationship that Gina Jones could’ve had with her son. She neglected him to protect him, true, but all that’s done is leave him unprepared for her world and too angry to immediately consider helping her or follow in her footsteps. Reggie’s anger at his mother and his future working for her organization despite that are two things that really clicked with this issue.

Now let’s talk about main backbones of Art Ops‘ creative team. If you’re unfamiliar with Shaun Simon’s writing, know that he goes for a lot of exposition in his dialogue which can feel a little clunky. Reggie is a difficult character to parse. One minute you definitely want to empathize with him and the next, you’re marveling at his actions because they make so little sense. Right now with only the first issue out, that’s sort of a given, but it might well be one of those books with a middling opening that sneaks up and sucks you into buying the trade paperback.

On the art side of things, we have husband and wife team Michael and Laura Allred. Michael handles the lines (and did that eye-catching cover) while Laura worked on the issue’s color. Michael Allred is actually famous for his work on the iZombie comic and the opening for the comics’ television adaptation. So if you’re sitting there and trying to remember where you saw the Art Ops‘s art before, look no further than to your television. Famous for his retro style, Allred’s style works to render the artsy horror of the book. While there’s a little bit of sameface going on with some of the characters, the way that Reggie’s emotions stand out and play across his face in his style is amazing to see.

To be fair, Art Ops #1 is alright. It’s a little boring in parts and the retro art style isn’t for everyone, but with just the first issue out, maybe things will only go up for it. This is one book that’s getting another chance (or two) because there are questions that need answering and art mysteries to uncover.


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About the author

Zina Hutton

writes about comics, nerd history, and ridiculous romance novels when not working frantically on her first collection of short stories.

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