Cold War dramas are hot again, in the well-received afterglow of The Americans.  The Dead Hand taps straight into the nostalgia of know who your enemies are as the residents of Mountain View begin to confront the grim truth of their town.  While the adults struggle to keep those secrets buried, it is their children who threaten to blow the lid.  Join Sheriff Carlson in this latest issue as the cold war begins to hot up once again…

The Dead Hand #4The Dead Hand #4

Writer:  Kyle Higgins
Artist: Stephen Mooney
Colorist: Jordie Bellaire
Letterer: Clayton Cowles
Publisher: Image Comics
Price: $3.99
Release Date: June 11, 2018

Previously in The Dead Hand: Mountain View is the idyllic American small town; beautiful, rustic location, full of charm and far away from the rat race of city life.  Scratch beneath the surface, however, and you discover that the town’s Sheriff, Carter Carlson was once a black ops agent during the Cold War.  Scratch some more and you soon realise that everything you understood is a lie and that you live in a place that hides the last, most dangerous secret of the Cold War.

SPY VS SPY

The hit tv series The Americans took its cue from the domestic travails of a Russian husband and wife spy team implanted in America, set against the broad sweep of the Cold War during the Reagan presidency.  Sure, there was plenty of action adventure and spying, but the real core of the show was its examination of the married couple, their relationship and their parenting.

Inspired by the same impulse, The Dead Hand #4 devotes itself mostly to Harriet, daughter of former spy, Renae Martin.  Renae has trained her daughter to be as skillful a fighter and shooter as she was, without telling her the dark secret at the heart of Mountain View, or indeed, her own dark past.  But if you train a child to be as observant as a spy, eventually they will come to realize that the world around them isn’t what they have been raised to believe.

Harriet acts out with her friends, drinks, steals cars, and in one memorable panel, slams it into a telephone pole.  Far from being embarrassed by all this, Harriet is instead empowered, confronting the Sheriff and her mother with her knowledge the killed a hiker.  The topic of the Dead Hand is raised, which leads to all sorts of awkwardness between the trio.  Harriet follows the Sheriff and her mother to an abandoned gas station, where she too learns the shocking secret that Mountain View harbours.

The Dead Hand #4 builds on the mysteries revealed in earlier issues.  We get a glimpse of the nature of the Dead Hand and its bizarre controller, Roger.  We see how the children of the inhabitants of Mountain View live their lives, mostly oblivious to the truth that hidden from them for all of their lives.

Writer Kyle Higgins has crafted a story with a killer twist – Mountain View, seemingly an idyllic example of small-town America, instead inhabited by people who aren’t who they say they are, and not exactly located where we think it is, despite all evidence to the contrary.

SHAKEN, NOT STIRRED

While the events in Mountain View play out domestically, the efforts of an unnamed MI6 agent and his Russian asset to enter the town are the second strand to the story.  Here, there is more action than in the other storyline.  Higgins crafts enough character beats between the agent and Vil, the Russian, to give greater context around why what Mountain View harbors is so important.  The pages depicting an ambush of the duo by a black ops team are skilfully blocked out, with a real sense of color and movement amidst the hail of bullets.

There’s a lot of photo-realism employed in the artwork for The Dead Hand #4.  On the one hand, when you’re illustrating a story steeped in the real world, makes a lot of narrative sense.  However, from the purely art perspective, while well done, you end up with stiff looking characters.  It’s a balance, but I feel the artwork by Stephen Mooney tends to detract from the story, especially in the smaller panels.

BOTTOM LINE:  DIAL M FOR MAYHEM

Just like a Matryoshka doll, The Dead Hand series goes deeper and deeper as you peel away the layers.  What you, and characters like Harriet thought at the beginning, is nowhere near the reality by the end.  The Dead Hand #4 is another excellent issue and a series that continues to confound, and entertain, in one excellent package.

[taq_review]


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About Author

Romantic. Raconteur. Kangaroo rustler. Sadly, Rob is none of these. Rob has been a follower of genre since at least the mid-1970s. Book collector, Doctor Who fan, semi-retired podcaster, comic book shop counter jockey, writer (once!) in Doctor Who Magazine and with pretensions to writing fantasy and horror, Rob is the sort of fellow you can happily embrace while wondering why you're doing it. More of his maudlin thoughts can be found at his ill-tended blog https://robertmammone.wordpress.com/

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