By Patrick Ehlers
This article contains SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk!
Detective Kujan: Who the hell is Keyser Sösz?
Verbal: Ohhh, fuck!
The Usual Suspects
The quality of any mystery or narrative twist is going to depend entirely on how much the reader trusts the reality they are presented with. Brian Singer uses a charismatic storyteller and the fog of ancient crime myths in The Usual Suspects. The ending is a twist that works, but only because the audience has been lied to from the beginning. Kyle Higgins and Stephen Mooney take a different approach to mystery in Dead Hand 1, telling the audience everything and letting an abundance of information shroud the actual mystery.
Oh, and this is me repeating the spoiler warning from above. I’m going to explain why the twist works, so you better believe I’m going to be giving it away here. We understand each other? Good.
Writer Kyle Higgins has turned in one hell of an info-dump of a script. We are introduced to our protagonist Carter four times — once as he liberates a Russian nuclear site at the end of the Cold War, again as a child, again at the beginning of his Black Ops career, and finally as sheriff of some podunk town. Higgins’ weapon of choice for these first three introductions is omniscient third person narration by the barrel-full. The only time in the first dozen pages we aren’t totally clear about where Carter is or what he is doing, the narration baldly and intentionally and contradicts itself. The first big time this happens is when the story leaps forward from childhood to Black Ops, with no explanation other than that the specifics “are a bit muddier.” Later, Higgins lets the narration see inside Carter’s psychology, cluing us in to his specific pathology by lying to the reader, and immediately peeling back the lie.
To this point, the team is very straightforward about what they are and are not keeping from us. We know a fuckton about who Carter is and why he would want to be some kind of super soldier. We know there’s a blank space in his story, but that’s a red herring mystery. When the story begins in earnest like fifteen pages into the issue, the reader is comfortable with their relationship to the storytellers.
That’s when everything changes.
Check out how Higgins and Mooney transition out of the previously established narration-heavy format.
That’s half the page covered with narration, and half left to Mooney’s expressive characters. Where is this narrator to provide the reader with insight into what’s happening and when and where we are? Those narration boxes pop back in a few pages to talk about what Mountain View is, but in a selective way that focuses on its isolation and little else. Then Higgins and Mooney let the rest of the murder-the-stranger narrative play out startlingly without explanation. It’s like we’ve had training wheels on the whole issue, only to have them removed when the story is really soaring. It’s an exhilarating shift, and one that allows the return of the narration, and the pat “Mountain View wasn’t in America” to land with so much force.
The conversation doesn’t stop there. What do you wanna talk about from this issue?