HADRIAN'S WALL TPB BY ALEC SIEGEL, KYLE HIGGINS, AND ROB REIS
Art
Plot
Characterization
Summary
HADRIAN'S WALL is an engrossing 8 issue run by Alec Siegel, Kyle Higgins, and Rob Reis that beautifully combines the genres of film noir and futuristic sci-fi. It's a story that will definitely impress its readers.
95 %
Building a Hopeful Future

HADRIAN’S WALL is a clever, gripping series from Image Comics. It successfully combines the atmosphere of STAR TREK with the sensibilities of a film noir. If you’re like me, this genre-fusion is what makes this story by Alec Siegel, Kyle Higgins, and Rob Reis so enjoyable. The trio craft an entertaining whodunnit which never overstays its welcome throughout its quick 8-issue run. HADRIAN’S WALL is quality entertainment through and through.

HADRIAN’S WALL
HADRIAN’S WALL pg. 7. Image Courtesy of Image Comics.

Everybody is a Suspect

HADRIAN’S WALL takes place in the year 2085. Humans have cracked interplanetary travel across space. They use this ability to colonize other worlds and launch corporate expeditions. These themes of cosmic travel were common in sci-fi stories even before STAR TREK and ALIEN. However, what makes HADRIAN’S WALL interesting is that while it exists in a classic sci-fi/futuristic universe, it doesn’t utilize many classic sci-fi tropes. Alec Siegel and Kyle Higgins aren’t interested in showing large space battles or vast planets of alien monsters. Instead, HADRIAN’S WALL is a much more contained story mostly taking place in the confines of the spaceship, the Hadrian’s Wall.

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Siegel and Higgins understand that sci-fi does not need to be a genre of itself. We have seen examples of how sci-fi was combined with other genres in visual media. Visual media such as ALIEN (horror), STAR WARS (western/fantasy), and WESTWORLD (thriller) have done this with great success. Siegel and Higgins pick primarily from the trends of film noir and a bit of mystery. HADRIAN’S WALL starts with the death of an astronaut in space. Soon after, a company called Antares assigns Detective Simon Moore to investigate the death on the Hadrian’s Wall. Simon serves as the perfect film noir hero; he is a hardboiled detective down on his luck. Instead of alcohol and cigarettes, Simon uses a heavy dose of painkillers to alleviate his stress and sorrows.

HADRIAN’S WALL
HADRIAN’S WALL pg.14. Image Courtesy of Image Comics

As Scott Snyder says on the trade paperback, HADRIAN’S WALL feels “like a high-stakes game of CLUE on a spaceship at the outer limits of the galaxy.” The writers leave the reader guessing over these 8 intense issues. Who exactly is the person responsible for the untimely death of Edward Madigan?

The Crossroads of Humanity

HADRIAN’S WALL has an intriguing backdrop. The story takes place in a universe where the Cold War got very hot. In 1985, the United States and the Soviet Union decided to nuke each other. The long war that followed between the superpowers ended with a stalemate. Eventually, each side agreed to unite in a shared partnership focused on colonizing outer space. However, a cold war soon sprouted between Earth and its new colony, Theta. Although Siegel and Higgins spend a lot of time explaining the background of the world they’ve set up, the politics between Theta and Earth are not the focus of this comic. The spotlight, for the most part, is the mystery on the Hadrian’s Wall ship.

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Yet HADRIAN’S WALL symbolizes the crossroads from humanity’s cynical past towards a more Utopian, Roddenberrian future. The genre of film noir flourished in the 1950s. This was the era of McCarthyism when Americans believed that their neighbors could be enemies of the state. It was an age of paranoia. Our hero, Simon, represents the very nature of paranoia and pessimism. He views everyone he doesn’t know as the enemy. This stops him from truly connecting to others.

Without giving away any spoilers, I will say that this comic takes a sudden turn around issue #5. If you understand the theme of the book, the turn makes complete sense. Siegel and Higgins are begging their readers to turn away from their feelings of cynicism, alienation, and paranoia. They want the world to turn more towards a hopeful future.

Art in HADRIAN’S WALL

Just as the story and characters in HADRIAN’S WALL took a lot of inspiration from classic works of sci-fi and film noir, the art follows suit. Rob Reis, who worked with Siegel and Higgins on their critically acclaimed C.O.W.L., excels with this book. His panels are always dynamic and his characters are always physically interesting. Each person has enough detail ascribed to them to make them unique individuals. Yet Reis does this without removing their archetypal looks, which denotes their place in the story.

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Reis’ work on Simon’s face denotes a typical modern male-action star in the vein of Tom Cruise. His dark eyes and black trenchcoat further connect him to the ideal film noir hero. Meanwhile, Annabelle, Simon’s ex-wife and the story’s femme-fatale, is marked by her stylized hair and makeup. This gives her the look of a dangerous cosmopolitan woman. However, Reis doesn’t play everything according to an archetype. I love how Annabelle’s lipstick and hair share the same shade of green. This could be a joke on the classic blonde femme-fatale, a representation of Simon’s feeling of envy towards her, or just a fun stylistic choice by Reis.

HADRIAN’S WALL
HADRIAN’S WALL pg. 52. Image Courtesy of Image Comics

As for sci-fi aesthetic, Reis does a great job crafting his own style. He mixes looks from several different works of sci-fi to create a unique style. He presents the cold isolation of ALIEN with the dim lighting and grimy interior of the ship. There’s a bit of influence from BORDERLANDS and MASS EFFECT. The influence shows especially well in outfit designs allocated to the Theta colony members and Earth military. The look of Earth also evokes a bit of BLADE RUNNER with its flying cars and advanced digital billboards. Even the image of the astronaut stranded in space makes me think GRAVITY. This mix of artistic influences is one of the elements that create such a great experience in HADRIAN’S WALL.

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Final Thoughts

I’m not sure that HADRIAN’S WALL is a story I would want to read for a hundred issues. This isn’t because it had any huge flaws but simply because it isn’t built for an ongoing tale. I appreciate that it is a short, self-contained story following this one mystery. It shows the strength of Siegel, Higgins, and Reis; that they are able to create an interesting story in a new world. Then they are able to bring that story to a close in 8 issues. Comics are often in a serialized format. Therefore, it is refreshing to see a story which has something to say, says it, and then ends.

HADRIAN’S WALL is as much a throwback as it is a thought-piece on the current times we are living. After a century of war, polarization, and crises in the 20th century, are we going to allow humanity to continue this century in the same vein? Or are we going to find a way to stand together as a species and embrace the future?

One Comment

  1. […] issue comes out December fifth. I’m doing that with Rod Reis my old friend from Cowell and HADRIAN’S WALL days. I’m working on, I’m actually editing my first series at Image with a new creator […]

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