02nd Jul2018

‘Mickey Spillane’s Mike Hammer #1′ Review (Titan Comics)

by Dean Fuller

Written by Max Allan Collins | Art by Marcelo Salaza, Marcio Freire | Published by Hard Case Crime/Titan Comics

Mike_Hammer_1-Cover-B

I’m guessing pretty much everyone has heard of Mickey Spillane, even those not really fans of the hardboiled detective genre, which he practically invented. When Mickey Spillane’s most famous character, Mike Hammer, first hit the stands it ramped up the levels of sex and violence previously seen and became a huge success. Although mainly a comics guy, I do dabble a little in genre fiction, sci-fi, horror, detective noir etc and have always had a soft spot for Mickey Spillane and Mike Hammer. The soft spot for Mickey Spillane comes from the fact he got his start in comics, where he wrote a ton of stuff for a lot of publishers in the early 1940′s. My soft spot for Mike Hammer? Two reasons.

Firstly, I remember watching, and loving, that Stacy Keach Mike Hammer TV series in the mid-1980′s. Yes, it wasn’t pure Mike Hammer, this was the 1980′s after all, but it was great fun and the best source of sexual innuendo around. The second reason? Mike Hammer started life as a proposal for an ongoing comic book series called Mike Danger. That never really worked, so the concept was reworked, with a more gritty, hard boiled character renamed Mike Hammer and voila, a legend was born. Ironically in later years Mickey Spillane returned to comics where Mike Danger was actually published as a now completely separate character. The writer involved was a certain Max Allan Collins.

As much a match made in heaven as publisher Hard Case Crime and Mike Hammer are, Max Allan Collins and the detective genre are equally well matched. Seeing Collins’s name on the book immediately made me aware we would be seeing as authentic a Mike Hammer as we could get without Mickey Spillane himself writing it. In fact in the first 12 pages you get classic imagery and character right off the bat. A chase across rooftops at night in the city, and a reminder Hammer is no hero. He’s more in the Catwoman mold, never actively ‘bad’ but let’s just say ‘morally flexible’. I like that term, hides a multitude of sins. Of course, Max Allan Collins wouldn’t be doing the genre justice without the black widow female character, the apparently sweetness and light girl who is anything but. Those first few pages are pure, classic crime noir.

As great as all that was, it serves more as a pre-credits sequence than anything else. We shoot forward a year to Hammer’s office as the rain pounds down outside. His secretary Velma has a potential job for him, but it involves getting mixed up with Carmen Rich, someone who has previous with Mike and, er, actually wants Hammer dead. ‘Take a number’ shrugs Hammer, and takes the job as a bodyguard to a certain Clayton Beech. The planned meeting place is a club owned by Rich, so Hammer assumes this could go South fast. He goes anyway.

It goes about as well as you would expect. No Clayton Beech, just a load of Carmen Rich flunkies looking to make a name for themselves by taking out Hammer. In between all the mayhem, ha also manages to scoop up a damsel in distress, who claims she is being followed by two men who are going to kill her. A bluff? Mike takes a chance and helps her leave. They are then attacked by two hitmen in a car, who Mike narrowly gets the best of, but this just leaves more questions. Who were they after, Mike or the mystery woman? Both? Is the mystery woman really in danger, or a set-up. That’s the great thing about detective fiction, you really do never know who to trust.

A great start to the new series, with Max Allan Collins deciding to not reinvent the wheel and just go with all the classic story beats and noir imagery he can muster. It’s entertaining stuff. The slick art and muted colours, by Marcelo Salaza and Marcio Freire, are the perfect complement to the script, evoking a classic retro feel. Loved the panel composition and pacing too, excellent. To paraphrase Mickey Spillane, if the first issue sells all the rest, then I’m definitely around for the duration.

It’s definitely Hammer time.

**** 4/5

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