Writer: Gerry Duggan
Artist: John McCrea
Colorist: Mike Spicer
Letterer: Joe Sabino
Publisher: Image Comics
It is tempting to romanticize the mafia and organized crime. Gentrification, income inequality, and the surveillance state make us wistful for the time when American cities were intimate, disorderly places filled with fringe characters, hoodlums, and hustlers who challenged the status quo. The “new” (we’ll forget Dead Rabbit existed) crime drama from Image Comics, Dead Eyes #1, glimpses these anti-heroes decades on, retired from a life of graft, and suffering the same problems as everyone else: a broken health care system, the injustices of life on minimum wage, and the nagging sense that America no longer works for ordinary people.
Writer Gerry Duggan (Analog) creates a main character who is both gritty and sympathetic. Martin is a retired stick-up man who pulled off one last big heist and then disappeared in 1997. His reputation in the media has grown over the years to finally outstretch his actual misdeeds. Having spent the money that he stole from the ’90s, he now works in retail to pay off his sick wife’s medical bills. Conflicted and tired, he knows he has no choice but to go back underground as Dead Eyes. But when he puts the mask back on, he’s more inclined to help people than he is to steal from them.
But the most interesting character in the story might be the city in which the story is set: Boston. From the 1980s, film and literature secured the city’s status as a backdrop for crime dramas, though I cannot think of many comics that use Boston in this way. Dead Eyes #1 sets the allegory of a failing middle class against the row houses, urban blight, and dingy bars of South Boston lore. I look forward to watching the creative team exploit the significance of this urban space to the main character’s quest to redeem himself.
John McCrea’s (Hitman) artwork pulls us in with creative paneling and the clever use of perspective. I really enjoyed the way he uses shadows to draw out the suspense. The main character is often shrouded in partial darkness. And, we often glimpse him from above or below the panel sight line. The effect is a murky feeling, as if we are waiting for this former criminal to emerge reborn. We begin to see the protagonist more clearly when he dons the guise of Dead Eyes, through sharp light/dark contrasts.
Dead Eyes #1 also has some humorous moments that work well with the serious subject matter. Overall, I liked this comic and I recommend that you check it out.