A murder mystery you say…set in deepest space…with a detective laden heavy with life’s baggage…aboard a ship full of dark secrets…
It didn’t take long for the opening issue of the, Kyle Higgins and Alec Siegel, penned mystery to grab me. In fact, it was almost instant. You just know instinctively when something is going to tick your own boxes for comic book joy, and within one outstanding issue, Hadrian’s Wall, has done just that.
Upon entering we are greeted by a scene of death. An astronaut watching as his helmet visor begins to crack and terror grips him tight. A curious last word is spoken to darken the situation, and we have a victim for our mystery.
Then the action cuts to a downpour in Seattle, August, 2085. A man is arguing with a counter assistant about being short-changed. The assistant insists the computer is right and the basic mathematics of the situation are wrong, he then bemoans the man for paying in old money instead of creds. The man eventually resigns to defeat, collects his little bottle of pills, and leaves into the rain. We have our protagonist.
From her on in the opening issue lays some seriously solid foundations and paints some wonderfully detailed characters for the story to come. We have Simon Moore, an investigator who spends life swallowing pills to get through the day and to get over the departure of his wife, Annabelle, who also happens to be aboard the Hadrian’s Wall spacecraft where the death of the astronaut took place. Oh, and the astronaut himself, well he is the man who ran away with Annabelle and ended the marriage. Marshall Cameron, representative of the Antares Interspace Corporation, offers his friend, Simon, big money to take the contract and investigate what exactly happened aboard Hadrian’s Wall. And all the pieces begin to move into place very, very nicely.
In all honesty, in less accomplished hands this opening chapter might have been a bit of a drag. The action is noticeable only by its complete absence, and the whole read is focused upon the fleshing of characters and plot. But, thanks to the outstanding maturity of the writing, the issue moves at a nice pace whilst still delivering enough information to keep the reader entirely informed. The back and forth between characters, particularly Simon and Marshall, and Simon and Annabelle, is sharp and believable, managing to completely avoid all hints of cheese or cliché and making for a great read as the plot and its many tangled lines are expertly woven by the writers.
Artist, Rob Reis, has matched the heights of the writing with his brilliantly detailed vision of the story. Expressions are caught in great clarity, locations feel alive, and the moments where our hero, Simon, reminisces about his former life with his wife stand apart from the rest of the book thanks to some really clever use of colour. As standalone panels the work here is worth your time, but in combination with the writing this is real dream team stuff.
Hadrian’s Wall is set for eight issues. Hopefully this is enough for the writers to tell the story they want to tell, hopefully there will be no need to rush and we can enjoy this tale for all it’s worth, and hopefully what’s to come can reach similar heights of greatness as this opening chapter. With Hadrian’s Wall, you could say I’m hopeful.
A genuinely intriguing opening chapter. A near perfect marriage between mature writing and eye-catching artwork come together with well-fleshed characters, nicely crafted mystery, and an undercurrent of menace to create something truly special. Long may it continue.