There's a lot more original Cold War material out there in comic book form than I originally thought. I mean, I knew it was a pretty popular subject and I've reviewed a few based on the setting, but it's still fascinating to find new stuff based on the tiniest details of events that are then blown up into new stories. The writers of Pigs came up with their story from a single strand of thread: A Soviet agricultural research unit lands in Cuba during the missile crisis in 1962 and doesn't leave after Khrushchev tells everyone else to pack up and go. Now, in 2011, a bunch of Russian-Cuban twentysomethings arrive in the US dressed up in commando gear and running around the country doing some weird black ops stuff. Question is, who are they, and what's their mission?
Naturally I'm a sucker for anyone who can glean a plot from such a tiny bit of information. Aside from a modest plot hole halfway through the book, I still like it. The primary theme of this storyline is about the morality of sending your kids to fight a war they didn't start, and whether one can still be an independent human being when they're trained from birth for a single purpose.
They laid this theme on thick in this volume, with a schism between these commandos brewing right from the beginning as one of their own refuses to carry out their parent's mission. There are a lot of characters introduced across two or three different time periods, so we don't get to see too much difference in character personalities. A few get to show off some basic traits, but the rest are there to argue about the main theme. It does give us a chance to see through the eyes of the people who would normally be villains; usually you just get a couple lines of dialogue to justify the internal workings of a bad guy's mind, but here we have an opportunity to see how these guys tick and maybe see them change as they argue. At the very least I like the plausibility of it all. They don't reveal too much about the political situation in the US at the time but they drop a few hints that will make you intrigued enough to want to see what has been happening since these commandos made landfall. It will leave you with questions born of curiosity, not of confusion.
There is a part where a shopkeeper is seen covered in blood and his assailant later claims to have left him alive, which is weird. Also, I'm not quite sure if the main characters are second or third generation spies, since they're all children in 1992, thirty years after their supposed parents first arrive in Cuba. Maybe they'll address that in a later volume. There's no other inconsistencies that I can see though, aside from a bunch of third generation killers claiming to work for the KGB (which doesn't exist anymore). Maybe they've just been insulated for too long.
The art style reminds me of Aaron and Ahmed, with characters defined by smooth colors and a few sparse lines for facial features. It's pretty dark too. Even with well-lit scenes the palette is defined by dark colors, and a lot of it happens at night. It changes up later in the novel with a different style for a flashback or two. The artists can make some great faces and brutal scenes. The single page spreads have a weird thing going on; they're all evincing this pop theme, with sex overtones and american style graffiti, but the actual story doesn't have the same feel to it. Not like, say, DMZ, where the art style feels consistent throughout. It's still good but it feels like two dissimilar things were juxtaposed. Maybe that's stuff for the next volume.
It's a good opening shot for this comic. I guess it's not terribly unique save for the storyline, but it's definitely worth a read. The end page twist is good and it makes me want to read the next volume.
TL;DR: If you like stories about identity crises and intelligence wars, check this out.
Pigs is written by Nate Cosby and Ben McCool and illustrated by Breno Tamura and Will Sliney. It's published by Image Comics. You can purchase volume 1 at your local comic book shop or, support Spandexless by purchasing through our Amazon web store. Volume 2 will be available July 3 (and is currently available for pre-order.)