The Cold War ended years ago, but its legacy is still with us. Some might even surmise, from a quick look at the global stage, it never really ended. It’s certainly the feeling one gets after reading this espionage thriller’s debut issue that lured me in and left me genuinely surprised by the time I reached the last, unexpected splash page. And just when I thought I’d got a grip on this fascinating, promising story. But then, I suppose, a good spy story will keep you guessing as we start following a trail that takes us from 1991 Russia to the present.
The Dead Hand #1 by writer Kyle Higgins, artist Stephen Mooney and colourist Jordie Bellaire, is a great scene setter of a first issue, revealing not only our hero’s childhood in the prosperous, post WWII era America and his reasons for entering the military, but also his entrance into the shady world of black ops and the killer suit he inherits as part of the deal. His is a story of Cold War killings, abandonment issues and the hangover that came about as the Soviet Union crumbled and capitalism, along with opportunist oligarchs, shook down Russia and its people.
Mooney, with help from Bellaire, delivers a realism and grit to his pages that keeps this series grounded in realty. To a point. After all, this is comics and so this stretches some of the boundaries of belief, but in interesting and surprising ways. And, with Carlson’s backstory done away with, we meet him in the here and now as a seemingly innocuous Sheriff in a beautiful, sunny but sleepy, typical Middle American community of Mountain View. Even the colour scheme reflects this supposed change in Carlson’s circumstances in which the biggest threat to freedom is a bunch of teenagers trespassing on farmer’s land for some target practice.
But we learn that this is no normal Middle American rural community as it’s somewhat secluded from most forms of public transport, bizarrely enough, and even the internet! Talk about Eerie, Indiana! At this point, this comic was starting to feel a little bit more like an episode of the Twilight Zone with a political edge to it. The story didn’t add up.
However, sometimes the truth is stranger than fiction and what we are given is a great page turner you’ll want to invest in as the series progresses. And a last page reveal that will surely make you want to add this to your pull list, I reckon. This is great story telling with a great art style to match. John le Carré meets The Twilight Zone, but with spandex! It’s just too early to say who the heroes are.
As for the book’s title? Well, looks like that’s one secret we’ll have to wait a little longer to know. You ain’t getting it from me!
The Dead Hand #1 is currently available from Image Comics.