Having ripped off the mob in the 1990s in one last big job, Martin (the former feared masked criminal Dead Eyes) has spent the intervening decades looking after his disabled wife Megan. Now that the money has run out he finds himself forced to return to his old ways without her knowledge. But a job in a hardware store, taken to case the joint, underlines that the world has passed him by since his active days.
Stumbling on a potential criminal mystery Martin is about to find out just how out of place “Dead Eyes” is in a very contemporary criminal scene. Meanwhile, the ghosts of his past are about to resurface in the present day as his re-emergence is one that no one is happy about… from the mob to the police, to the wife whose interests he’s protecting…
Gerry Duggan and John McCrea’s Dead Eyes isn’t necessarily a particularly innovative spin on the crime drama genre but it is a thoroughly entertaining one, mixing gritty urban theatrics with an oddly resonant story about rediscovering ourselves in a world that may have left us behind. Duggan has proved a solid serial comics scribe over the last few years and here he presents us with a modern noir thriller that both embraces and yet, to a degree, also subverts the costumed protagonist genre.
There’s both a poignancy and an almost slapstick comedy here as the fearsome legend of Dead Eyes and the everyday reality of a man now out of his depth in the modern world are juxtaposed and contrasted. It’s a very human story despite its extreme trappings; one that connects with the reader on a profoundly existential level, with its Christmas setting providing an extra level of fittingly awkward melancholy.
Of course, for many, it will be the visuals of John McCrea that will be a huge draw and the former Hitman artist does not disappoint. There’s a dare I say it… more gritty realism to his approach here than the appropriately caricatured approach of the tangential super-hero world of Hitman and it’s a splendid fit for the tone of this piece. McCrea is as adept at zooming in on the very human, very touching, quieter moments of Martin and Megan’s relationship as he is at throwing us into the bigger, brasher, bolder action sequences, with Mike Spencer’s colour choices soaking every panel in an eerie fatalism.
Like every comic serialised in smaller increments the coming months will prove ultimate narrative worth but at this early point there’s much to recommend Dead Eyes. A book to keep a close eye on because this first instalment in the series is as much strangely familiar slice-of-life reflection as it is in-yer-face crime caper.
Gerry Duggan (W), John McCrea (A), Mike Spicer (C), Joe Sabino (L) • Image Comics, $3.99
Review by Andy Oliver