Cold War Vol 1: The Damocles Contract
Acclaimed creator John Byrne releases his latest creation, MI-6 agent Michael Swann. In Swann’s opening adventure, “The Damocles Contract,” the secret agent is called on to stop a defecting British scientist from granting the Soviets complete nuclear dominion over the free world… promising ample doses of intrigue and espionage.
This is a James Bond tale in everything but name; if you’re a fan then you’ll enjoy this volume. It begins with a mad action chase, then reporting into headquarters to be assigned, off to the mission where chaos ensues but the job gets done. Did I mention the lead is a British spy? Ian Fleming perfected that tempo more than fifty years ago and Byrne plays off the riff. Don’t worry: it’s all homage and no ripoff.
Not that there’s anything wrong with the formula. It’s popular because it works: we don’t need to get bogged down too deeply into plot twists. The story takes place during the Cold War but no dates are given. Based on clothing, automobiles and a mention of Lend/Lease usage I’d say 1950s. Michael Swann is our spy and lead; unfortunately he’s a “ladie’s man” and able to seduce any and all women encountered, which is something we could get away from. He’s smart, charming, a former World War II soldier and a true man of action.
The story and dialogue are captivating and thoroughly entertaining. There are a few plot twists that make for an interesting take and the ending was a surprise. Historical context throughout puts the reader right where they should be. A few sequences hint at later storylines, and as a final nod to the Bond movies the book ends with the promise that Swann will return in The Seven Cardinal Contract. I’m ready.
Byrne delivers solid artwork; it’s rich and detailed. Classic Byrne with thick black lines and rounded characters, but page layout and story development utilize new techniques like the double page spread above showing a series of laps in a car race. For an action book I found it odd to see black “comic blood” instead of the actual red; since there’s no comics code anymore and no reader age rating on this book it seemed out of place.
For extras we’re presented with pencil roughs (breakdowns) for the first issue along with covers for the series. A nice insight into the creators process. For $20 it seems a bit pricey but there’s a lot of fun and entertainment provided.
Originally published at Comic Book Daily.