There are too many new comics series launched featuring a mystery assumed to hook reader's interest as if not revealing something to your audience is sufficient cause for them to patiently wait one month to spend four more dollars. It may seem obvious that there's a lot more to writing a genuinely alluring mystery than that, but there are too many examples to the contrary for this to be taken for granted. Thankfully, however, writer Matt Kindt and artist Wilfredo Torres have crafted one of the most compelling new mysteries to appear on comic book store shelves in quite some time. Bang! #1 offers readers ample material to relate and enough visual cues and concepts to keep them pondering for weeks, all of it wrapped in one of the most stylish, action-oriented stories of the year so far. It's a perfect example of how to hang a story on a conspiracy, withholding information yet still offering plenty of reasons to anxiously anticipate Bang! #2.
The first issue introduces readers to Thomas Cord, a James Bond facsimile, and then introduces them to Thomas Cord again as a conspiracy involving a death cult, decades of impossible adventures, and a writer of airport fiction who claims to traverse realities. The connections between Cord and our world's most famous fictional superspy aren't simply shorthand for readers to quickly engage in the story, they are a fundamental part of the narrative. The first and final pages of Bang! #1 offer pieces of prose reminiscent of Bond's creator Ian Fleming, and the allusions are made in such a fashion that even readers with the most passing of familiarities with the character will stick pick up on the overall connection. Bang! is a story about the nature of fiction, specifically genre fiction, and that makes each reference far more potent than a simple moment of recognition.
These ties to recognizable fictional franchises and storytypes construct the foundation of Bang!'s alluring mystery. The individual pieces presented here—Thomas Cord, Goldmaze, Philip Verve, and several more recognizable archetypes—all provide just enough information to encourage readers to start threading red string between those images in their own minds. They don't offer mystery for its own sake, but glimpses of a much grander portrait with enough color and fun on their own to make these glimpses satisfying on their own.
That satisfaction comes, in no small part, from Torres' depiction of this unfolding conspiracy. The sorts of sequences will be familiar to fans of Bond and readers of action comics—a desperate escape, a snowbound infiltration, exploration of an eccentric mansion—yet each is dispatched so skillfully as to remind readers why the tropes were effective in the first place. Action plays out with a clear cause-and-effect rhythm, building momentum with each new panel. Slower sequences carefully focus the eye on minor details (e.g. the blue eyes of exotic birds), emphasizing the oddities and building up a long roster of possible clues to be considered. Every page makes the overall experience all the more immersive, often without requiring a single word balloon.
Torres makes each element in a story that has only begun to explain how it functions work so well independently that it's difficult to resist being pulled in. Bang! #1 manages to be a thrilling spy caper, a daunting collection of intrigues, and a carefully considered meditation on a number of less-than-academic genres, then promise that all of these differences will enhance one another as more is revealed. It is an issue that is fun for how well it executes on distinct elements, and also offers enough details and ideas to assure readers the long game will be just as satisfying as this brief introduction. It's the rare monthly comics mystery that understands there has to be more than a question mark to hook readers, so it offers instead a thrilling read with plenty to discuss in one of the most well-considered first issues of 2020 so far. Pick up two copies just to be sure you can find friends to discuss this outstanding debut with.
Published by Dark Horse Comics
On February 19, 2020
Written by Matt Kindt
Art by Wilfredo Torres
Colors by Nayoung Kim
Letters by Nate Piekos
Cover by Wilfredo Torres