Review: Cold War #1

Having written or drawn nearly every Superhero in the comic books, few people in the industry have a career as noted as John Byrne. Recently he has been partnering up with IDW Publishing on various projects, with his latest creation being the Espionage/Thriller Cold War. Cold War, both written and drawn by Byrne, follows the adventures of English Special Agent Captain Swann. Not surprising, the book takes place during the height of the Cold War as Swann attempts to achieve his covert goals.

Right from the start, we join Swann on a mission that has gone terribly wrong. Stuck behind Soviet lines, he must make his way back to friendly lands in one piece. The story really has a bit of everything: action, drama, Cold War paranoia, womanizing. It’s a winning combination that has worked in fiction for awhile. The problem is this combination of story elements is both the best and worst part of the book. The fact of the matter is that a majority of people will read this like a James Bond story. While this first book in the series is better than some of the more awful James Bond movies, I know there will be portion of readers who will be turned off and just rather read a James Bond book.

Though they would be justified to think so, they would be doing both themselves and Cold War a huge disservice. Sure it has a handsome, womanizing loose canon of an English Special Agent protecting Queen and Country, but it does it well. While it will remind many people of James Bond, Byrne does a good job at keeping the story moving so you’re never given much time to dwell on the similarities. The book starts off fast with a great deal of action. Once things begin to slow down, we are introduced to a fairly standard plot about a scientist being accused of making plans to defect to the Soviets and Swann is assigned to get to the bottom of it all. Even though the story is nothing new so far, it has a great deal of mystery and is written well enough that it will keep your attention.

The art is great. Those familiar with Byrne will know that he is a kind of less is more sort of guy that hates straight lines. His characters are never cluttered up with “stylish” extra lines or inking. It’s a classic feel that I personally like a lot. While his art isn’t the flashiest, there is a reason he has been in the industry for over thirty years. His faces are expressive and his character designs are classical in nature with stoic, hard-faced heroes and smooth curvy women abound on the page.

Cold War #1 serves as a great distraction from all the cape and cowl comics that dominate the industry. Only time will tell if this series will live up to its potential, but the mystery and great use of a traditional cliff hanger will have me coming back for issue #2. But fair warning, if you don’t like James Bond and other espionage stories which were prevalent during the Cold War, you might want to skip this one.

Pros

  • Solid espionage shenanigans
  • Proper art
  • The mystery is intriguing

Cons

  • Some readers might not be able to get past similarities to James Bond
  • Plot might be a little too familiar to fans of the cloak and dagger genre

Final Verdict:

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