Welcome back to the dark, gritty streets of Mike Hammer #2.
The plot thickens as Mike questions his unexpected new contract about exactly what kind of trouble she’s in and we find ourselves drawn into a tale of mob money and doublecrosses. Returning to the Club from the night before, Mike finds that a homeless man known as “The Captain” has been shot and killed after leaving Mike a message that he’d seen something important and needed to talk to him. With little to go on but an attempt on his life and a dead homeless man, Mike sets about finding out who put tried to put a hit on him while at the same time discovering that his new client might not be as honest or as helpless as she first appears.
Issue two ups the ante nicely, weaving in additional plot threads and new characters while moving the story briskly along, with a beautifully set up and illustrated fight scene towards the end of the comic which is gloriously visceral. Mike immediately comes across as a man who knows how to handle himself, confident without being swaggering, a risk taker who always makes sure to stack the deck in his favour first. The aforementioned fight scene also includes a distinctly cringe-inducing use of a set of weights and a wheelchair. That poor man will likely never play piano again (assuming he could to begin with).
We also see the introduction of more of those iconic noir archetypes. The grumpy police detective willing to share information, the sassy and capable receptionist, our damsel in distress who may also be a femme fatale, only time will tell and we have two more issues to go before we reach our conclusion.
Mike’s relationship with the crime boss Carmen is reminiscent of that between the Victorian Police Inspector James McLevy (of The Inspector McLevy Mysteries series) and the owner of the local whorehouse Jean Brash who is also the center of much of the local criminal activity. If not directly involved, Jean Brash knows the people who are. They maintain a wary working relationship, trading barbs as often as favours in McLevy’s pursuit of justice. Mike Hammer is the reason Carmen has an artificial knee, but they still work together, even after Carmen’s bodyguard tries to kill Mike.
The art style continues to be a lovely thing to behold, with many panels drenched in rain and shadow, or splattered with blood. We’ve got lots of closeups of brooding eyes and smashing fists, you can almost hear the mournful, wailing saxophone on every page. There’s also a lovely series of panels where the characters move from the club to ending up naked in bed together. Mike wastes no time in living up to his namesake, it seems (ahem). The dialogue is cliched, as you might expect from a story like this, but never quite veers into parody, always playing it straight.
“But they were men, and they’d lived lives, and maybe somebody even loved them once – a mother, a girl, a dog. I took it serious, their deaths. The night knew, even if no-one else did.”
We end on a cliffhanger in this issue, our heroes treating their wounds in a motel while men of nefarious intent wait outside for their moment to strike. A strong issue here, which leaves the reader eager for more. Roll on issue #3.
Mickey Spillane’s Mike Hammer #2 is now available from Titan Comics.