Hey gang! Another week, another edition of Forte and another round of excellent comics to talk about – and I’m stoked to have picked out a seriously great story to discuss this time around. This week, I’ve picked up Hadrian’s Wall, written by Kyle Higgins (Nightwing, C.O.W.L.) and Alec Siegel (Captain America, C.O.W.L.) and drawn by Rod Reis (Secret Empire). Hadrian’s Wall is – surprise, surprise – a fantastic sci-fi story from the folks over at Image Comics, who have proven once again that they’re the home of some of the best stories going around.
In a universe that saw the Cold War end with nuclear detonations in New York City and Moscow, humanity has moved beyond the bounds of Earth. In the decades after the calamitous conflict, the two superpowers found peace in a collaborative effort to colonise the wider galaxy. Now, one hundred years later, a new Cold War has begun – this time, between Earth and its largest colony, Theta. Simon Moore might be downtrodden, unhappy and addicted to painkillers, but he’s still a detective. When astronaut Edward Madigan – Simon’s ex-boss, and his ex-wife’s new lover – dies aboard the survey ship Hadrian’s Wall, Simon is – somewhat begrudgingly – sent to investigate. While he initially took the assignment to spite his ex-wife, Simon soon discovers that Edward’s death was anything but an accident. Everyone on Hadrian’s Wall has their secrets, and Simon is determined to get to the bottom of the mystery – no matter what it might cost him.
Man, Hadrian’s Wall is just plain great. I was enthralled from the first page; it’s the kind of story that I absolutely love. Hadrian’s Wall is a blend of neo-noir and sci-fi, and is essentially a love letter to both genres. Simon is a hugely flawed character – his personal grudges and addiction to painkillers play a big part in the story, and add a fantastic psychological twist; his withdrawals make him hallucinate a disfigured Edward, who alternates between taunting him and encouraging him to behave rashly. Higgins (whose work on Nightwing during the New 52 was generally pretty good) and Siegel have done a great job of crafting a cast of flawed, deep and conflicting characters, and their interactions are as big a focus as the overarching storyline.
Special props should go to Rod Reis, as well; his artistic talents are on full display throughout the book. His character designs are excellent and detailed, and his work on each of the covers is just outstanding. Given there’s no credit for a colourist, I can only assume it’s his work too; his use of colour is spectacular, and as is the norm for any noir story, is as important to the story as dialogue or the characters themselves.
I’m aware that at this point, I might as well have “fanboy” stamped on my head, but I’m really impressed with the quality of the material Image has been publishing lately. They’ve published so many fantastic stories that given enough time – and I don’t think it’ll take too long at all – they’re quite likely to turn the “Big Two” into a trinity. Hadrian’s Wall is the latest in a line of excellent, creator-driven stories, and I can’t wait to see what’s coming next.
Written by Alastair McGibbon