John Byrne has been doing some great work recently with The Next Men relaunch so I didn’t hesitate to pick up Cold War Volume 1: The Damocles Contract.

Cold War Vol 1 coverAcclaimed 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.

John Byrne (w & a & c)
TPB FC
$19.99 USD
120 pages
ISBN 978-1-61377-177-8
IDW Publishing (April 4, 2012)
Order online: AmazonBook Depository

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.

Cold War Vol 1 interior 1

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.

Cold War Vol 1 interior 2

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.

Cold War Vol 1 interior 3

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.

Cold War Vol 1 interior 4

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.