Old Wounds #1-3
Writer Russell Lissau and artist John Bivens present a story that I should find too familiar, but the telling makes it unusual. As issue #1 opens, Michael Lane is told that his ex-wife has been killed when her home was blown up. Their secret, which Lane refuses to share with the investigating detectives, is that they used to be superheroes.
He gave it up after an accident, one that destroyed his leg. As the series continues, additional people connected to him are attacked, and we learn more about the circumstances behind the original accident and the relationships he had then and now.
A lot of this works for me for two reasons. One: Lissau does a terrific job building suspense. As the series continues, he knows just how much information to dish out to keep the reader involved. The flashback memories are inserted quickly to establish who characters are effectively. Sometimes, we’re also shown how survivors lie to themselves to avoid painful memories.
The second reason is the art. Bivens’ style is scratchy, noir-ish, and toned to indicate many shades of grey. The opening scene, where Lane is woken up by the detectives bringing him bad news, which he receives in his bathrobe, stooped in a chair and clutching his cane, carries the feelings of dismay and shock well.
I like Lissau’s dialogue, too. It advances the story realistically. I have a bit of a qualm about the lack of women in the story, particularly since one of the two is nothing but a plot device, a victim to motivate the action. On the other hand, there aren’t many characters in the first place, and it’s good to see Detective Alyssa Hess acting so proactively.
Obviously, this is a thriller, a mystery where we stay tuned to find out who’s attacking Lane’s friends. It’s also a meditation on how past trauma shapes survivors and a story about someone whose best days were behind them but who’s still hanging on. There aren’t many comics about what you do in the second or third phase of your life, once youth is past and you’re making decisions for different reasons.
Issue #3 does reveal the villain, after a substantial past revelation, but there’s plenty more to come, as we still need to find out why and how. In this superhero comic, the motivation matters more than the action. (The publisher provided digital review copies.)