“We know who you are, Niko.
We know what you do.
All we want is what you have.
Give it up or we’ll take it from you,
DEAD OR ALIVE!”
Niko’s having a bad day. A blue-collar worker in Australia, all he wants is a nice, quiet Sunday. But, that plan goes all to hell with a phone call and a visit from a black-suited stranger, intent on getting something from Niko that he doesn’t know he has, or killing him in the process. Now, Niko is on the run, trying to stay alive and figure out what everyone wants from him and is willing to kill for to get it. And, he’s learning that, while there are dark secrets in the world, he’s just scratched the surface of the mystery surrounding him.
Victor Dean’s self-published comic is a fine cut above most self-published works. His storytelling moves with a dizzying speed, literally starting with a bang and refusing to let up. It’s the stuff of good film noir and mysteries, both modern and vintage, as the hero finds himself slowly being crushed by forces he doesn’t understand.
Turning to his step-father, The Major, Niko learns that the old man may know more than he’s letting on, as well. And, if he doesn’t actually know the reason why everyone is after Niko, he knows enough about them to put Niko, hopefully, on the path to escape. Does he make it? This issue is tantalizingly teasy about it, and more than enough to hopefully jumpstart the Kickstarter campaign that Dean used to finance this issue.
Lowden’s pencil-and-ink artwork has a sharp, but vaguely unfinished, feeling to it, which at points, fits the style of the story he’s illustrating. As fast as everything is moving, the sharp blacks and whites only highlight the barest minimum necessary in his frames. The only shades of grey we get are in the “rest periods,” where we gear up for the next leg of Niko’s journey. Overall, the feeling is that we’re seeing a storyboard for a larger tale. Despite this one drawback, his pencils are strong and solid, and his sweep of action is very impressive for a self-published book.
In his afterword, Dean is very honest about his desire to create his own work and was encouraged to not rely on the “Big Two” to get it out there. With this cliffhanger, we can only hope he continues his labor of love.
“So, Major, I think you have a few things to tell me. When you took Niko from France, what did you know about him? Did you know who his real family was? I’m assuming you knew whom he belonged to or you wouldn’t have created this life for him. You were a street criminal in the city before you were sent to France and now you live a life . . . almost off the grid.”
VERDICT: FOUR Greasy Secret Pasts out of FIVE