Page 45 Review by Jonathan
"Edward Madigan is dead, Simon."
"There was an accident. He was on an E.V.A. when his space suit... vented."
"The company needs to make sure they have a full understanding of events. With all this unrest between Earth and the colony on Theta... they're being overly cautious. Between you and me, it's a formality. A rubber stamp job."
"But it pays one hundred thousand."
"You gotta find another contractor."
"Look, I know there are... issues. But like I said... it's a rubber stamper. We head out, you do a once-over, sign off on how he died..."
"He shot me four times and married my ex-wife. I don't give a shit why his suit vented."
"I'm giving you a chance to make a hundred grand off it. Schadenfreude is underrated, Simon. Think about it."
What Marshall has neglected to mention is that Simon's ex-wife, Annabelle, is also on the space ship that Simon will shortly be heading for to 'investigate' Edward's death. Both Simon and Edward used to be cops, back in Seattle, in fact Edward was Simon's boss... Well, at least until he started banging his wife, then he kindly transferred him to another division... In retrospect, though, breaking into their house to look for the engagement ring that used to belong to his mother - which Annabelle wouldn't give back out of pure spite - wasn't the smartest thing to do. That's the sort of behaviour that gives someone the excuse they've just been waiting for to shoot you four times. Even if that sort of excessive response can get you pensioned off the force to hush it all quiet...
It is, of course, nowhere near as simple as that, as Simon will find when he joins up with the survey ship Hadrian's Wall and its crew way out in deep space. For a start, the rapidly heating up new Cold War between Earth and its biggest colony, Theta, has got everyone twitchy, and it's abundantly clearly to Simon that everyone on board seems to be hiding something from him. If he had any sense he'd do his rubber stamp duty, collect his 100K and head back to Earth to keep popping his painkillers, but the cop in him can't help but want to get to the bottom of what really happened, not least because he suspects Annabelle is responsible for Edward's death.
It is, of course, nowhere near as simple as that!
Excellent vacuum-packed piece of police procedural work all wrapped up in lovely shiny science fiction foil. And no, I'm not referring to a particularly bizarre variant cover, thank goodness. Kyle Higgins and Alec Siegel have crafted a very tense whodunit here, which even when the culprit has been finally revealed still has secrets galore to give up in rather painful fashion. Simon, grappling with his own not inconsiderable demons from the onset - as are laid excruciatingly bare for us to empathise with, including an extreme dependency on the pain killers he took to after getting shot - rapidly finds his psychological problems accelerating to escape velocity as parties unknown take it upon themselves to flush his stash into space.
Once Edward, clad in his battered space suit, starts making hallucinatory appearances, pro-offering advice like Hopkirk, of Randall and Hopkirk (deceased), well, it all starts to make the process of deductive reasoning rather more difficult. Wittering ghosts are somewhat of a distraction whilst trying to crack a case, indeed just avoid cracking up, I would imagine. Still, he's nothing but persistent our Edward, shame he didn't try so hard on his marriage years previously... something Annabelle is only too happy to point out to him, repeatedly. You'd have thought being in the frame for her husband's murder with her ex-husband having the power to send her down might make her tongue somewhat less acerbic, but no. Maybe he wasn't entirely to blame...
Rod Reis simply excels on art duty. Lovely sharp linework and some great little touches are his trademark. His facial expressions are a real strong point too. He manages to make Annabella look like she has the veritable zero Kelvin perma-frost of a demeanour throughout, particularly where Edward is concerned.
This trio of Higgins, Siegel and Reis has worked together before to excellent effect on the sadly short-lived but rather splendid two book C.O.W.L. non-superhero superhero crime series, also on Image. As Stephen commented in his review of the first volume of that series, there's a sublime touch of Bill Sienkiewicz in Reis' work. Complete in one volume, this will chill you right to the end...