The Dead Hand #1
Writer: Kyle Higgins
Artist: Stephen Mooney
Colorist: Jordie Bellaire
Letterer: Clayton Cowles
Publisher: Image Comics
Release Date: April 11, 2018
The Dead Hand #1 from Image Comics tells the story of Carter Carlson, a Cold War American operative turned small-town sheriff who discovered something during the war that “not only changed his life… but altered the course of history.” The “Dead Hand” is threatening utter annihilation and it seems the only thing that might stop it is an unlikely relationship between a small boy and an old spy.
In its first issue, The Dead Hand #1 serves as a vehicle to introduce the main protagonist, Carter Carlson. Kyle Higgins uses a good mix of flashback and current events to give a firm idea of just who Carlson is. I found the pace to be slow, even for an introductory issue, but the last page will leave you wanting more. After reading it, you’ll scream, “I need the second issue now!” just like this writer did.
Now, it should be noted, it’s not really fair to critique the pace of the first issue. Higgins is no first timer, he knows what he’s doing. Anybody can write a cliffhanger, but not everyone can draw you in, have you headed in one direction only to make an unexpected u-turn out of nowhere.
Writing alone does not make a comic. The art needs to complement the story with appropriate visuals. With clever use of montage, Stephen Mooney provides many details of Carlson’s life from childhood to secret operative, to small-town sheriff. A good comic artist is like a film director taking a script and providing the essential visuals. Mooney is an excellent cinematographer.
The best part of this issue was the work of colorist Jordie Bellaire. Her choices were spot on and consistent throughout the The Dead Hand #1. Her colors perfectly contrast each time frame of Carlson’s life and complement the mood within. One particularl striking set of panels were three in the second half of the book that juxtaposes colors schemes of two different time periods.
And last by certainly not least, the lettering. It would be remiss of me to not mention the fine work of letterer Clayton Cowles. For the uninitiated, lettering is not simply throwing word bubbles on the page. I’ve been guilty of not paying much attention to this aspect of comic creation, but that ends today. Good lettering takes time. You need to ensure the letter stands out but is subtle at the same time so it doesn’t distract from the art—never cover the art! A good rule of thumb is, if you read it and don’t really think about the lettering, the letterer has down his job. That’s just me, though.
Final Thoughts: The Dead Hand #1
The Dead Hand #1 is a solid introduction. Yes, during the first reading the pace was slow, but the payoff at the end is worth it. And as I write this (after a second and third reading), I come to realize that maybe this is what Higgins’ purpose was to begin with. Well played sir, well played.
The Dead Hand #2 hits booksheleves May 16, 2018. Call your LCS to reserve a copy.
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