Hadrian’s Wall: First Impressions

hadriansStory: Kyle Higgins & Alec Siegel
Artwork: Rod Reis
Publisher: Image Comics
Issue #1: September 2016


From the publisher:

When an astronaut on HADRIAN’S WALL is murdered, pill-popping detective Simon Moore is dispatched to investigate the ship’s crew… including his own ex-wife. But if Simon’s not careful, what he finds could make the interstellar Cold War go red hot. From the creative team behind the critically-acclaimed series C.O.W.L. comes a gripping, locked room murder mystery where the secrets of everyone involved are as dark as the space that surrounds them.

hadrian-3I’m loving the fact that more and more comics seem to be taking a page out of the tradition of manga—by which I mean: they plan to END. I love spandex-wearing super heroes; there’s no denying. But one of the biggest turn-offs for me as a comic book reader/collector, and one of the strongest barriers to my buying a given title, is the terrifying prospect that the writers (a) have no intention of ever arriving at the resolution, and (b) they may even intend to further complicate matters with endless spin-offs, cross-overs, and alternate versions. That’s a big commitment, like a marriage, so I’m very discriminating when it comes to comic book serials. I hate divorces (see my rant on my now terminated Howard the Duck subscription). Therefore it was happy tidings when I learned a month or two ago through Newsarama of the upcoming, 8-issue arch by Higgins & Co. How could I not be interested in a combination of science-fiction, alternate reality, film noir, murder mystery, and historical reference? Issue #1 hit the stands this month, and I’m happy to report, even though I’m already married to several other titles, this tryst to Hadrian’s Wall looks like it’s going to be a wonderful love affair.

What’s Not Working So Much for Me…

Honestly, I got nuthin’. This section appears here to maintain consistency with my other articles, and I have honestly flipped through the pages of the comic and racked my brain several times for something to gripe about, if for no other reason than to try to be balanced. But I got nuthin’. There’s nothing to complain about; nothing to even give me pause. All I want is the next issue, right now, and here’s why:

What’s Kicking Ass Already in Issue #1…

  • hadrian-1Artwork & Style. The artwork is sexy. The characters look great. The faces look extremely realistic and diverse, and the fashion styles really capture the retro-feeling the creators were going for. Clothing and hairstyles both emulate everything that the 1980s promised us “the future” would offer. The setting has a very Blade Runner kind of feel to it as well. There’s a beautiful and separate color palette for each scene, which helps the reader easily recognize scene changes, and which sets the tone for each scene nicely. I also appreciate the differentiation on panel edges—some are hard and some are soft or blurred—signalling the difference between the present and flashbacks or memories. I love it when artists use little techniques like this. Not only does it make the action more understandable, but it gives the whole work a very cinematic quality. Very much looking forward to seeing more of this “film.”
  • Pacing. Another quality I’ve always appreciated in manga (which I also mentioned in my Lone Wolf 2100 preview) is the willingness of the writers and artists to devote several pages to a single scene, rather than rushing through only one or a few establishment panels and then right into the progressive action. The opening scene of Hadrian’s Wall is three pages long, made of 13 panels and only one speech bubble, depicting only one event: the deep-space death that triggers the story’s investigation. As with the art itself, the layout and pacing is very cinematic. The story is compelling and neither rushed nor dragged out hadrian-2tediously, and the character drama is already interesting. It’s going to make for an enjoyable hardbound graphic novel once they print all eight issues together as one. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
  • Personal touch. Kyle Higgins offers a very personal afterward at the end of this first issue. He gives some insight into the story’s inspiration and the ways in which he drew on his own life and personal sufferings. I love stuff like this; I appreciate getting to see “behind the curtain” a little bit on creative projects, and getting to know their creators and sources of inspiration. For me, it just adds one more layer of insight and significance to the project, and it makes you feel like these geniuses are totally accessible.

Hadrian’s Wall #2 hits stores in October. I recommend you stop by your local shop this week and get this title on your pull-list, and pick up #1 while you’re there.

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