A Former Stick-Up Man Returns To The Mask In Dead Eyes #1

by Brendan M. Allen

You can’t keep a good comic down. In the 1990s, Dead Eyes was a prolific stick-up man and hoodlum in Boston until he took down one last big score and disappeared. Nobody ever discovered the truth. He retired to be with the love of his life, but now he’s back in the mask to save her. No one—not his wife, the mafia, or the cops—is happy that he’s out of retirement. From John McCrea, the artist and co-creator of Mythic and Hitman, and Gerry Duggan, the writer of Analog and Deadpool, comes the action, comedy, and drama of Martin Dobbs, a.k.a. Dead Eyes, the man who says he’s descended from one of the original gangs of New York City. Get on board the oversized first issue of an all-new ongoing series for mature readers.

Making comic books is a funny business. Back in the 1850’s there was an Irish street gang in New York called the Dead Rabbits. Dead like “very,” and rabbit, from the Gaelic “ráibéad” meaning “man to be feared.” Basically, the BMFs. Gerry Duggan and John McCrea started making this Dead Eyes comic last year, except it was called Dead Rabbit, in homage to the Five Points gang.
But then some bar in New York, also called The Dead Rabbit, served Image Comics  with a cease and desist after the second issue, because their menus look like comic books? Yeah, okay. Anyway, the book was good, so after a mandatory recall and a redesign, Dead Rabbit is back, but now he goes by Dead Eyes. That’ll do. It’s still a cool name.

Dead Eyes #1 opens up with a nostalgic crime piece on the local news that features the antihero criminal Dead Eyes, who’s been MIA since his last big heist in the nineties. He was a thug, sure, but he had panache. Anyway, he’s been out of commission these last decades, and everyone assumes he’s living off the fat from his last huge job, but that’s not entirely accurate. There is no 401(k) or retirement medical plan for career criminals. And since his wife has complex medical issues, that money’s run out. The most prolific criminal in Boston’s history is dead broke, pulling shifts for a certain American multinational retail corporation as a greeter. 
Wife, crappy job, raging hemorrhoids… It’s the American Dream. Then something happens that gives Dead Eyes an opportunity to scratch that itch, and there’s no turning back.

Gerry Duggan pulls a slick little trick with that news report, basically giving all the backstory we need to kick this pig, without beating anyone over the head with clunky exposition. Petty thug, cool costume, pulled a big score against a mafia boss, got away with a few million, hasn’t been seen since. Gotcha. By popping around bars, homes, and that mob boss’ office while the TV is airing the program also gives a great feel for exactly how this Dead Eyes fella is perceived. Everyone seems to have a Dead Eyes story. Some are funny. I don’t think that mob guy likes him much, though.
And anyone who can’t relate to that first glimpse of Martin’s current, er, situation, hasn’t hit middle age quite yet. Reality is a mother, and it’s caught up to Dead Eyes.

Art by John McCrea and Mike Spicer is a brilliant fit for the story. McCrea’s gritty linework and Spicer’s near trash polka palette give the Dead Eyes scenes a vibrant visual signature that starkly contrast the dull, bleak scenes in Martin and Megan’s home.
Dead Eyes #1 is a violent pulpy noir that leans into mafia and antihero tropes. This is a solid opener that immediately punches the reader in the gut and promises an intense, character-driven series.

Dead Eyes #1, Image Comics, released 02 October 2019. Written by Gerry Duggan, art by John McCrea, color by Mike Spicer, letters by Joe Sabino, edited by Will Dennis, covers by John McCrea and Phil Noto, logo by Drew Gill.

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