When I first read about The Activity in a USA Today article I thought, “holy s**t, those guys have a comic book?!” Intelligence Support Activity is SOCOM’s more secretive, and compartmentalized unit. To tell you the truth, even those of us in SOF knew very little about them or what kind of operations they had going on.
So what do those guys actually do? From what I’ve read they mostly gather intelligence for JSOC’s Tier One elements, SEAL Team Six and Delta Force.
Remember that scene in Black Hawk Down where “Hoot” is chilling in the Bakaara market in Mogadishu while posing as a photographer? The movie has to simplify things for time considerations, but this is the type of work that ISA does.
The Activity focuses on Team Omaha, a fictional direct action team within ISA consisting of five operators who conduct snatch and grabs, surreptitious entries, surveillance device installations, figuring out how to help Delta Force achieve their objectives, and generally cleaning up the CIA’s messes. The five-man (and woman) team is Danny “Weatherman” Locke who fought in Operation Anaconda as a member of the 75th Ranger Regiment before getting hung out to dry for political reasons, Francis “Speakeasy” Doyle, Luke “Switch Foot” Styles, a Delta operator who made the transition to ISA, Zoe “Bookstore” Dallas, and the newest member who came to the team from Civil Affairs, Leslie “Fiddler” Ryan.
Each issue in the new trade paperback edition of The Activity serves as a good starting point for new readers to the series. In issue #1, Team Omaha comes off a mission to kidnap a Mexican cartel leader and goes right into a second operations to sanitize an apartment in Europe where an informant hastily abandoned some sensitive intelligence information. This is also Leslie’s first job with the team as their newest member.
Issue #2 takes the team back to Europe, where they have to deal with the fallout of one of their own turning to the other side. In issue #3 the team is almost torn apart by second guessing and accusations when a joint mission with Delta Force goes wrong in Afghanistan. Issue #4 is my favorite so far, where Team Omaha has to find away to help Delta Force figure out a way to capture a Colombian drug boss by disabling his helicopter and allowing a Delta assault team to move in for the capture. This is where Leslie gets into a sketchy situation trying to infiltrate the cartel’s motorcade. Issue #5 gives a flashback to how Speakeasy joined ISA while Team Omaha allows themselves to be arrested as a part of their mission in Thailand.
The plots of the comic are realistic, but not too realistic, if you know what I mean. They kind of get you in the ballpark of real operations without compromising TTP’s or providing the enemy with a how-to-book about avoiding American Special Operations troops. I’ve become acquainted with the writer, Nathan Edmondson, and know he is committed to getting it right, for the sake of realism and simply out of respect for the Special Operations community.
The art is well done and suits the material well. The small details, the weapons and equipment that soldiers use, is very accurate with a few minor exceptions. I’m very particular about comic book art. If an artist doesn’t draw Batman the right way than I won’t read it no matter how well written the comic is! In this case I’m glad that Nathan and the artist, Mitch Gerads, compliment each other well.
I’m excited about the directions that The Activity is going in, there really isn’t anything else like it out there in military fiction. Issue #6, which has hit comic shops and newsstands, is about Leslie’s back story in Civil Affairs during a mission to the Congo, again reflecting reality, and I’m told that future missions will bring the team to Uzbekistan and the Horn of Africa. While the first five issues are almost independent of one another, Nathan plans on bringing many of the plot elements together in future issues and the comic will have some larger story arcs.
If you’re a comic fan, or just looking for a military thriller that is really well done, I highly recommend picking up The Activity.
Oh, yeah…I’m doing a little technical advising on this comic as well!