By Ben Snyder
While initially skeptical of its heavy use of narration, story, and characters the last few pages of The Dead Hand #1 throw everything prior in a new light creating fascinating new dynamics on typical cliché tropes. Writer Kyle Higgins, artist Stephen Mooney, and colorist Jordie Bellaire piece together an incredibly suspenseful and thought-provoking tale that holds immense promise for future issues.
Kyle Higgins does an amazing job in setting up the twist at the end of the story and laying the groundwork for the future of the series. I really can’t do a proper review of this comic without commenting on the latter half of the chapter, so consider this a spoiler warning.
Before “Sheriff” Carter Carlson went AWOL and snapped a weary travelers neck, I was almost ready to give up on The Dead Hand, it simply seemed like a story we’ve read time and time again. A former Black Ops military vet retires to a sleepy mountain town hoping to forget the atrocities committed and the lives slain, until a mysterious visitor arrives and begins asking questions about said military vet’s past.
Normally in this scenario the story would revolve around the protagonist overcoming personal milestones and blocks on his way to opening up and being a better person. But Higgins expertly leaves hints in the beginning that all is not so cliché either with his narration of Carter’s childhood, his father figure Vil who defected to Russia, and even the initial Black Hand discovery. The final twist that Mountain View is actually in Russia simply wouldn’t have worked if there weren’t an expertly laid breadcrumb before it.
Higgins will need to delve more into the individual characters later in the series seeing as the only names we know are Carter and Vil and neither of them seem to be the protagonist, but the initial use of heavy narration and mechanical story telling works well in relation to the ending. It adds a more clinical/scientific lens to it, which even lends me to theorize if this entire mountain town set up is part of Operation: Dead Hand.
Stephen Mooney and Jordie Bellaire do a tremendous job of balancing two totally different styles in this book. The beginning looks like a 90’s super-spy style story with a jacked up hero snapping necks and bedding beautiful Russian debutants. Mooney does a wonderful job of even playing into this conception by making Carter look like the most over the top super spy in the US’s disposal. He even has a black blindfold with the outlines of a giant red-star over his chest. It’s borderline parody and it’s surprisingly effective.
The later half of the chapter looks slightly different however. Gone are Carter’s bulging muscles. Instead they are replaced with a slender frame and graying blonde hair. Bellaire’s heavy use of shadows in the face, primarily on Carter in the later half of the chapter lend a lot to the overall feeling of unease and deception. Mooney also gets pretty experimental with his page layout in the beginning as he speeds through most of Carter’s former missions.
The Dead Hand #1 is an expertly paced and drawn beginning chapter into a promisingly great new original series. While initially reluctant to read the rest of the issue in the beginning, the ending spin fostered a new hope for the story that it hopefully can cash in on.
The Dead Hand #1