Old Wounds #1 Review
I have read, written, and edited many, many books; great ones and utterly terrible ones, stories that grab your attention from the start and stories you need to slap yourself in the face just to get through the second page. I'm happy to say this one is definitely the former.
On the surface, Old Wounds is a straightforward tale of an enemy finding out a group of vigilantes' secret identities and killing them off one by one. But that is only window dressing; the mystery goes far beyond a simple "who did it". It all begins with Michael Lane and his friends.
The premise of the book is Michael Lane and his team were vigilante heroes, now retired. He and his cohorts presumably fought crime and for some reason stopped. But pay attention and you will see these heroes have not retired from old age or loss of purpose; they have not given up the fight because their job was done or they grew tired. No, something happened to them, something tragic and terrible, something that changed them, something that scarred them for the rest of their lives.
John Bivens creates a stark juxtaposition between the young and eager crime fighters and the diminished shadows they have become. Bivens' black and white style harkens back to the gritty noir comics drafted on pulp paper of times long passed. Most books created in black and white are done to save costs on colouring and printing but this style of artwork suits the ominous tone of the story perfectly. Seeing this story on off white, pulp paper would enhance the story tremendously.
Russell Lissau's dialogue resonates with the quiet, desperate longing of heroes beaten down by years of broken bones and broken dreams. Instead of the overt complaining or dark brooding we see so often in stories, it's a lonely silence which accompanies utter solitude. There is no exposition, no narrator giving a back story of who these people are and what they have done; that is something the reader gets to discover for themselves. The story adheres tightly to the old adage of "show, don't tell" and does it exceptionally well.
By the end of the book I found myself greatly disappointed there wasn't another page; for the first chapter of a mystery story I believe there can be no higher compliment.
My criticisms are few: repetition of a couple phrases, a few panels that could have used more inks/cleaning. I would love to have seen the speech bubbles with a subtle grey background, something to lend weight to the sombre dialogue. Given the harsh style and noir overtones of the book I would have preferred a more hand drawn lettering technique; something that compliments with darker greys instead of stark blacks. That's all.
This is a promising series off to a great start. My advice: get this book now.
Call your local comic shop. Beg, borrow, cheat, steal. Don't wait. Don't hesitate. Just do it. You will not be disappointed.
About the book (from Pop! Goes the Icon's website):
Michael Lane thought his secrets were buried in the past. But when his former associates become the victims of mysterious attacks, those secrets threaten to come back to haunt him. Join Russell Lissau (THE BATMAN STRIKES!) and John Bivens (DARK ENGINE) for the launch of this four-issue action thriller!