Review: Hadrian's Wall #1

Somewhere deep in outer space, an astronaut opens his eyes. Only to see a crack in his visor. Then another. And another. And another until an entire spider-web forms across the only thing separating him from the vacuum of space.Hadrian’s Wall is a story about why this man died.

I have this theory that every person has a particular storytelling niche. Whether it’s a genre, a setting, or an aesthetic, there’s a particular piece of a story that’ll bring you in every time. Good or bad—if a story hits those expected notes, you’ll be all in. For me, it’s always been the detective story. From The Big Sleep to true crime or Law & Order, I’ve always had an intense fascination with the process of unraveling why something happened.

In many ways Hadrian’s Wall #1 read like something written specifically for me.

Set in the science fiction setting of 2085, the first issue throws us into a place that feels somewhere between a Blade Runner and an Elon Musk dystopia. There are flying cars, corporatized space travel, and civil unrest on interplanetary colonies but the core story beats here still manage to play towards the classic notes of a noir thriller.

The detective of this story is Simon Moore, a semi-retired security professional turned pill-addicted divorcée and he’s been offered one last job by an old friend. An astronaut’s died on one of their corporate space stations, but what’s only meant to be a simple rubber stamp approval for an accidental death becomes something far more complicated and insidious the closer Simon gets.

While the first issue is mostly set-up for the rest of the story, it’s a good kind of set-up. Establishing the painterly visual style of this not-so-far-flung future and establishing what kind of cruel and vindictive person we’ve gotten stuck with. Normally, I’m not into unlikable or unsympathetic protagonists. It’s a juggling act that most writers can’t balance—making a main character that’s unlikable, but still interesting enough to follow.

Simon, however, is a type of cruel character I can get behind because as much as this is a story about a murder mystery, conspiracy and space politics, this is also a story about a bad break up. The dead astronaut from the beginning was once Simon’s friend—that is before he shot Simon four times in the chest and married his ex-wife… with said ex-wife now on that same station he’s gone to investigate.

Even the job offer is an upfront opportunity to rub the cruel events in his wife’s face and, while that might seem overboard for some, I think it portrays a type of emotional honesty that’s absent from most relationship stories. There’s a moment in this issue where Simon remembers what should be a happy memory, a sunny car ride with his then-wife only now rings frustratingly hollow.  As often as breakups are sad, they’re equal parts bitterness and resentment and the writing on this book leans into those aspects hard, building towards a confrontation that might end up tearing an entire space ship apart.

Hadrian’s Wall #1 has already managed to create a murder mystery that’s both personal and weighty and with art that while sometimes stiff is more often beautiful. For anyone interested in a tight science fiction noir thriller, this eight issue series is a must to keep an eye on.

Score: 4/5

Hadrian's Wall #1

Writer: Kyle Higgins & Alec Siegel
Artist: Rod Reis
Publisher: Image Comics
Price: $3.99
Format: Ongoing; Print/Digital