The Icy Fingers Of The Cold War
♦ Tripwire’s contributing writer Tim Cundle takes a look at Image’s new espionage series, The Dead Hand, now in trade, by Kyle Higgins, Stephen Mooney and Jordie Bellaire…
The Dead Hand Volume One: Cold War Relics
Writer: Kyle Higgins
Artist: Stephen Mooney
Colourist: Jordie Bellaire & Clayton Cowles
I used to know a chap who worked for the security services and late one night, over a couple of drinks he told me something that chilled me to the bone and still, if I think about it for too long, keeps me awake at night. He told me that all of the checks and balances that are in place to ensure that the missiles never fly are in the hands of people, who just like the rest of us, have the imagination and intelligence to foresee the consequences of their actions. So as such they are highly unlikely, even under the most arduous of circumstances, to fulfil their roles in the chain that leads to nuclear annihilation. As long as people, he said, remained in charge, he and everyone else in the world could sleep soundly at night knowing they were safe. But it was what he said next that terrified me. The only time he’d lose even a minute’s sleep worrying about the fate of humanity, was when we eventually, and inevitably, handed those decisions over to the next generation of machines that would be ushered in with the advent of artificial intelligence. And, he finished, the clock was ticking down to the fateful day that we’d eventually surrender to technology in order to rid ourselves of the burden of choice. That nightmare scenario, the one that gave my my old friend sleepless nights, is the premise that lies at the heart of Cold War Relics.
In the dying moments of the cold war, Carter Carlson, a lone American special operative on a final infiltration mission in the Soviet Union, stumbles across the greatest secret of the era, The Dead Hand. Designed and built to ensure that no side would ever gain an advantage in the advent of a third world war, the Dead Hand was the hair trigger that terrified it’s inventors and masters and had to remain hidden, guarded and mollified at all times so that the world could keep turning. So a programme of deception unlike any previously instigated by any single intelligence agency was implemented, one that was maintained and staffed by a cabal of the world’s foremost secret services. And for nearly three decades, humanity was kept safe by a dedicated staff of the best of the best from each of the agencies. But even the best kept secrets have way of eventually being uncovered, and when a rogue element stumbles into Mountain View, the home of the biggest and deadliest secret ever devised by mankind, said element sets off a domino effect that brings civilisation to the brink of man-made extinction.
Equal parts cold war thriller, high octane espionage adventure and terrifying, slow burn hard Science Fiction, Cold War Relics is a very human story of people, who thanks to the nature of their jobs and personal and career choices, have found themselves in a nearly inconceivable situation. One in which he fate of the world depends on their minute by minute decisions and deceptions. For most writers that’d be enough to build their plot around and on, but Kyle Higgins isn’t most writers and he ups the ante by humanising his stories main players through the complex and complicated interaction and relationships that make up their, otherwise fairly normal, lives. The idea that no matter what we think we know, the truth about the way countries, societies and individuals operate in relation to each other is far more complex and questioning the way we view, and understand, consciousness and life, Cold War Relics takes a frightening concept and turns it into something truly terrifying that’s made all the more real by the hyper-realistic and visually stunning art and colours of Stephen Mooney and Jordie Bellaire. My only slight criticism, is that at just six issues, Cold War Relics is a little too short as there’s a wealth of Dead Hand history just bubbling under the surface, but hopefully, as this is just the first volume of The Dead Hand, the collective past of Mountain View and all of its residents will be an avenue that Kyle Higgins travels down at the some point in the future of this book. Just remember to keep telling yourself that it’s only a story, it isn’t real, it’s only a story. Or is it…. Tim Cundle