The Prague Coup
Written by Jean-Luc Fromental
Translation by Lara Vergnaud
Art by Miles Hyman
Published by Titan Comics
Review by Justin Partridge
‘Rama Rating: 10 out of 10
Real-world intrigue and a silver screen legend collide in The Prague Coup. Centered around a starstruck but steely foreign agent and iconic The Third Man screenwriter Graham Greene, writer Jean-Luc Fromental delivers a lyrical, endlessly readable yarn filled with double-crosses, prickly politics, and smoldering Cold War action. Translated into cleverly verbose text boxes by Lara Vergnaud, Fromental’s script beautifully combines fact with fiction as our leading lady steps into the shoes of Greene’s protagonist Holly Martens, trying to stay one step ahead of various factions vying to know what Greene knows for the benefit of their respective superiors. Given a stony, almost storybook-like look by the art of Miles Hyman, The Prague Coup is a stellar retelling of the effort and espionage that went into making one of the cinema’s greatest spy tales.
Ensign Elizabeth Montagu is excited about her next assignment. Tasked by London Films to escort famous fiction writer Graham Greene around shattered Vienna, Montagu is using the assignment as a way to shake off the horrors of the war and get back to some semblance of normalcy, just as her homeland is. But she quickly discovers it won’t be that simple, as the lines between Greene’s film and the real-world political upheaval of the emerging Cold War pulls her back into a life she thought she had left behind.
As far as noir goes, The Prague Coup ticks all the boxes, with the added luxury of having a fantastic female lead at the helm. But even better, Jean-Luc Fromental takes one of the best-known works of filmed spycraft and pulls back the curtain on its fascinating production and enigmatic writer, providing a wonderful layer of truth to the already intriguing main narrative. Using interviews from those who knew Greene, records of his time in Vienna, and his history as a British Intelligence agent during WWII, Fromental delivers a believable and well-researched riff on the film. The whole affair is given extra weight by the references to the famous film throughout the tale, as Greene and Montagu delve into the real world versions of the film’s romanticized version of crime and spycraft.
But even if readers only have a cursory knowledge of The Third Man, the story and art here really hold up just as a great single experience. Elizabeth is a tremendous and whip-smart noir protagonist. Going into this volume, I had assumed that Greene himself was to be the lead, since the cover suggested it and he is a known quantity with a section of readers. But I was pleasantly surprised to find that was not that case, as I waded through Fromental’s hard nosed, but relatable characterization for Montagu. On the other hand, his Graham Greene plays wonderfully as Montagu’s boozy, quick witted foil — there are even times where you are convinced that he may even be the antagonist to the whole affair, which just speaks to Fromental’s twisty, deliciously seedy script.
Topping off this whole sordid affair is the artwork of Miles Hyman. The Prague Coup is another fantastic example of Titan’s commitment to period tone and looks. Setting a beautiful bar early with the volume’s opening vistas of wartorn Vienna, Hyman settles easily into the ‘40s aesthetic, all lavish costumes and smoky, lamp-lit bars. Some readers might be bemoan the lack of propulsion in some of the action sequences and chases, but even at a slower pace, Hyman’s painteresque panels really impress with their detail and expression. His style is wholly different than I have seen from anything else in the line. It is much more vintage than some of the other efforts, looking like a stylish mixture of old French science fiction works and historically inspired adventure comics. The result is a consistently pretty and engaging set of pages.
Film fans, crime enthusiasts, and history buffs will find a lot to love about The Prague Coup. But at the same time, I feel like this is a book that has a broad appeal for readers looking for something different this release week. Packed with enough historical accuracy and intrigue to sustain a whole series, The Prague Coup is a substantial and satisfying read from start to finish.