Carter Carlson was a special ops agent during the Cold War. He performed many top-secret wet work missions, and, at the end of the war, he was sent after a group of Soviet scientists allegedly responsible for creating many of the most dangerous weapons of the war. However, he finds a facility abandoned, scientists left to die, and talk of something called the Dead Hand.
In the present, Carter is the sheriff of a small mountain town and deals with far less dire problems. However, things may become complicated for him once again when a British writer arrives asking about the Dead Hand.
The Dead Hand #1 offers an oddly poignant contrast to the disappointing Crude #1 also released this week. This isn’t just because both are largely set in Russia, but both stories jump through time a lot in their respective setups for the series.
However, I never had trouble following The Dead Hand in the manner I struggled to keep up with Crude. That is because the former allowed each time sequence to reach a natural conclusion that naturally flowed into the following scene, and the timetable was far clearer. Plus, each scene was memorable in its own right and felt necessary.
To get more specific into the meat of Dead Hand and to have more fun with comparisons, the next comics I’m going to bring up are both by Ed Brubaker: Captain America and its spinoff series The Winter Soldier.
Kyle Higgins’s Dead Hand draws a lot from those two comics; that’s a good thing, as they are two of my favorite comic runs of all time. Like Cap and Winter Soldier, Higgins’ book is immediately steeped in Cold War conspiracies, superweapons, sleeper agents, and defectors. The narration is really dry and blunt, also reminding the reader of Brubaker’s writing style.
Clark is even dressed in a superhero-like costume not dissimilar from Bucky’s as the Winter Soldier, each deriving their inspiration from traditional military body armor and having the red star motif. Clarke grew up with a simple moral compass that culminated with a superhero obsession, and the comic even references how he wanted to be Captain America as a child.
All of this builds to a compelling setup about a man who became a Cold War legend and had his simplistic views of right and wrong twisted and perverted over the course of his military career. At the center of it all is a mystery about a superweapon, building to an ending twist that succeeds in being both unexpected and re-contextualizing the prior story in its wake.
To go back to Brubaker’s Marvel tenure, Stephen Mooney’s artwork is gorgeous, detailed, heavily shaded, and exists in the same class of work as the likes of Mike Perkins, Butch Guice, and Steve Epting. Those are three excellent artists and hopefully illustrate how phenomenal Mooney’s work is. It creates this atmosphere of grounded danger, lurking secrets, and an overall unforgiving world. It looks phenomenal. Plus, you have the ever-excellent Jordie Bellaire providing color to the world, giving texture and atmosphere suited for the tone of each scene.
The Dead Hand #1 is an excellent start to what is sure to be an enthralling Cold War conspiracy comic about an interesting lead, an apocalyptic weapon, and elaborate conspiracies. Higgins, Mooney, and Bellaire each do excellent work in this book, and I highly recommend giving it a read.
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