No Kids Allowed
The first thing you should know about The Dead Hand is that the kid is not a kid. He’s drawn like one, he talks like one, but he’s not one. In fact, the kid isn’t even human—he’s an autonomous supercomputer built by the Soviet Union to control their nuclear arsenal. His name is Roger.
Harriet isn’t a kid either. She’s a teen whose mother—Renae, a French superspy—has trained her practically since birth to follow in her footsteps. They live in a town called Mountain View, which, from all appearances, could be any small town in Appalachia.
Except this town exists deep within Russia—built and maintained specifically to keep Roger under control. Harriet doesn’t know this—none of the kids living in Mountain View do—but she’s going to find out.
Carter Carlson hasn’t been a kid for a long time. He, like Harriet’s mother, was a superspy during the Cold War. When the Soviet Union fell, he was working in Russia and, upon discovering Mountain View and Roger, decided to stay in the town, act as its sheriff, and keep the supercomputer in line.
Mountain View is run by a council of representatives from different nations, all of whom are there to ensure Roger remains oblivious to the Soviet Union’s downfall decades prior because, with his 10-year-old mentality, his reaction could have apocalyptic repercussions.
And everything’s going just fine until a writer hiking through the mountains stumbles upon Mountain View and shatters the tranquility of the secret town.
Behind the Scenes
There are six total issues in the series, comprising one trade paperback, and its unclear whether more are forthcoming. Don’t let that deter you, though—Volume 1: Cold War Relics is more than worth a read. It leaves the door open for more, but its ending is still satisfying.
Even as the contemporary story of Mountain View progresses, characters are still having their backstories fleshed out through flashbacks. Carter Carlson’s work during the Cold War is highlighted (his spy outfit rules), as is Renae’s, British spy Ellis’s (he’s basically James Bond), and we get some additional background on former Soviet informer Vil, as well. These flashbacks are some of the most compelling parts of the narrative—they’re pulpy, fun, and Higgins clearly had a blast piecing together his characters’ backstories.
Stephen Mooney’s artwork and Jordie Bellaire’s coloring for the series are superb. They perfectly capture the feel of the story Higgins is telling. Mooney’s character design alone—I already mentioned Carlson’s standout ‘90s spy outfit—is top notch and has me looking at some other series he’s worked on, just to see what else he’s put out into the world.
There are segments throughout where the artwork is bathed in reds and blues and oranges that provide a sense of atmosphere that not all comics manage. It’s always praiseworthy when a series finds compelling ways to use color, and that’s certainly a feather in The Dead Hand’s cap.
If the series has a flaw, it’s that the last couple of issues feel rushed, almost like Higgins knew he had to wrap up his first arc in six issues and needed all the pieces to fall into place, even if they weren’t totally ready to do so.
But even with everything moving at a breakneck pace, the story’s still engaging—just a little less immersive.
Aside from that, there’s not much to complain about here. If you know what it’s offering—a spy thriller/mystery—and you go in looking for that, you’re going to walk away satisfied.
I’m calling The Dead Hand one Entirely Satisfying Entertainment, especially for fans of Cold War-era spy thrillers. It’s got the action, the atmosphere, and the lore you want in a great series, complete with pulpy flashbacks and fun characters.
If we ever get a Volume 2, I’ll be first in line to buy it.