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From The Dead Hand #1, Image Comics (2018).

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#1 Comic of the Week: The Dead Hand

The Cold War runs hot again

Stephen Mooney, Jordie Bellaire

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Susana Polo is an entertainment editor at Polygon, specializing in pop culture and genre fare, with a primary expertise in comic books. Previously, she founded The Mary Sue.

Welcome to #1 Comic of the Week, a new series where our comics editor, Susana Polo, tips you off to a neat new story or series that kicked off in comics this week — just in time for some weekend reading.

This week’s comic is a classic standby of the spy genre — a Cold War operative whose civilian life is upended by threats and secrets from his past. But it’s one with an end-of-issue twist of world-building that had me instantly wanting to know more.

The Dead Hand is a new series from Image Comics that just kicked off this week. During the Cold War, American operative Carter Carlson “discovered a secret that not only changed his life…but also altered the course of history,” promises Image’s official summary for the first issue. “Now, as the mysterious ‘Dead Hand’ threatens to end the world once again, the only thing standing in its way is the relationship between an old spy and a little boy.”

From The Dead Hand #1, Image Comics (2018). Kyle Higgins, Stephen Mooney, Jordie Bellaire

That description is not exactly borne out in the 25 pages of story in The Dead Hand #1. In favor of struggling to introduce what looks to be a healthy cast of characters, writer Kyle Higgins and artists Stephen Mooney and Jordie Bellaire spend their time drilling into our main character’s past. We see his childhood, then his military career, and then we watch him go from super-suited Cold War operative to a small-town cop in the isolated hamlet of Mountain View.

From The Dead Hand #1, Image Comics (2018). Kyle Higgins, Stephen Mooney, Jordie Bellaire

The Dead Hand #1 merely hints at the presence of other characters, in favor of drawing — pun unintended — its protagonist in bold lines, and in favor of luring us into a false sense of security before a final page reveal.

Higgins is a writer whose work I mostly know from the more fantastical genres, whether it’s his Batman and Nightwing stories at DC, or his work on the Power Rangers at Boom! Studios. In The Dead Hand #1 he comfortably takes on the mantle of a noir spy story, and Mooney’s clear and realistic style gives its characters weight and expression. Mooney’s also got a penchant for some gorgeously composed splash panels that function as montages, and Bellaire’s color work guides the book seamlessly through its shifts in tone, from unassuming small-town American to dirty Cold War dealings and back.

Still, all of that wouldn’t necessarily have me coming back for more — except for that last page, which blows the story a lot wider than I initially thought it was. If that sounds like something you’d be interested in, you can pick it up on Comixology, or at the local comic shop of your choice.

The cover of The Dead Hand #1, Image Comics (2018). Stephen Mooney, Jordie Bellaire

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