Image Comics resurrects a series that saw the brief light of day last year. After getting pulled from shelves and recalled back to the publisher for a trademark dispute, the pulpy crime series returns under the new title “Dead Eyes.” Some Spoilers Ahead!
Written by Gerry Duggan
Illustrated by John McCrea
Colored by Mike Spicer
Lettered by Joe Sabino
In the 1990s a mysterious criminal known only as Dead Eyes was a sort of underworld celebrity in the city of Boston. He stole from institutions with high cash turn-around; banks, sports stadiums, high end drug dealers, and the mob. Straddling the line of the law by attacking those on both sides of it, he was seen by many as someone who existed in a sort of gray area. More people were fascinated by him than feared him. Then, after a supposedly huge score, he disappeared. Where he went and why he left are the two main questions people still ask today and “Dead Eyes” #1 gives us the answers.
As televisions run the local news all over the city, citizens of all types are drawn into a sort of “Where Are They Now” story on the masked bank robber/vigilante Dead Eyes. Although he is a real man, he has reached urban legend status with the stories of his exploits exceedingly popular with those in the area and in some cases becoming exaggerated campfire stories. As the story moves to various locations and viewers, we really start to get an idea of how the average person sees this legend of a man. While there are some bogus details floating around, once we see the man behind the mask, our expectations are both met and subverted in a really satisfying way.
The first time we see Martin – the man behind the mask – he is in one of the most vulnerable everyday situations we all find ourselves in: wiping his ass while his wife calls to him from the other room. It’s a funny jump from the previous pages that spent most of the time building up his alter ego. It is at this point that the issue does a decent job of showing Martin at home, taking care of his wife who is suffering from an, as for now, unnamed physical ailment, juxtaposed with some of his dark and violent outings as Dead Eyes so many years before. The relationship between Martin and his wife Megan rings true. We don’t spend too much time with them, but the dialogue between them feels honest.
Megan knows all about Martin’s past and while she would never want him to return to this life, she is able to joke about it with him. Duggan is able to convey a reasonable understanding of their relationship in just a few lines of dialogue. We fully get a sense of how both their friendship and that they love each other. I really enjoyed these character moments. It isn’t terribly drawn out and gets the point across easily.
Adding to the levels of Martin’s character, we learn that while he did land that one last big score before retiring with his wife, the money they stole has run out. We never learn exactly how much they took, but it seems to be less than what the public believes. With Megan’s health deteriorating, living a seemingly modest lifestyle, and hoping to never return to a life of crime; Martin has taken on a part time job as a greeter at a big box store. This keeps a little bit of money rolling in so that things can remain the same and Martin won’t have to tell his wife their savings are all but gone. It is never outright stated, but it is easy to assume that Megan’s healthcare is what helped drain the bank account so quickly.
Things are going OK, until a suspicious customer catches Martin’s eye. Never stopping This is the catalyst that could lead him back to his life as Dead Eyes. The internal turmoil is clear and you understand the tough decisions Martin has to make. From here on out we get some nice violence and truly horrifying panels, but the overall tone of the book remains the same, never leaning into one style or genre.Continued below
The action and more sinister moments are great, but these intimate character moments are what stand out the most in this issue. The story as a whole is oddly sweet. While there are many familiar plot beats and themes used in this first issue, the way Duggan uses them helps bring the story above what could have felt like a boring re-hash. It doesn’t all work, and some of it does feel a little too familiar and recycled, but it is still a pretty strong outing even with those moments.
John McCrea’s illustrations move between finely detailed images with heavy line work in the brightly lit scenes and loose, sketchy renderings in the darker and more action packed sequences. His work greatly reflects the narrative at hand. The scenes in Martin and Megan’s house or the store where Martin works are fully realized with a serene, and every day mundane quality. On the flip side of that any time we get a Dead Eyes flashback or one of the dark or disturbing moments, the drawings become otherworldly, though there is nothing fantastical about the events it is how Martin sees himself and his adventures once he slips the mask on. There is a wild kinetic energy to this daydreams so that even when we get to see Martin as Dead Eyes again, the reality of, while exciting and what you expect from the story, still doesn’t match up to the moments that played out in his head.
The same can be said of how Mike Spicer uses colors. While each normal set piece gets a full palette that truly fleshes out the world, in the crime scenes, we get flashes of color thrown into pages mostly filled with black and white. He uses shadows and darkness the way McCrea uses lines to extract the necessary mood from each panel. Each pages is finely executed and overall evokes that feeling of the horrible underworld bubbling just beneath the surface. It’s an art style that we see often in series from Millar, Brubaker, and Ennis, and it is just as effective here.
A solid start that moves through familiar territory that achieves both unexpected and typical results. There is a creative comfort zone that this team works within. The script is nothing overly original, but how it is used in tandem with the artwork makes for a story that is incredibly enjoyable. The story moves and draws you in so quickly that you may be shocked at how soon you land on the final page.
Final Verdict: 7.0, A fast paced premiere that uses a pulpy, crime story influence seen through a filter of modern society making for some interesting dramatic effect.