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Cold War Vol. 1: The Damocles Contract

Cold War Vol. 1Written and illustrated by: John Byrne
Publisher: IDW Publishing
Format: Softcover, 7 x 10, 104 pages, Full Color, $19.99
ISBN: 978-1-61377-177-8
Reviewed by: Diamond BookShelf

In Cold War: The Damocles Contract, comics legend John Byrne offers a James Bond-ish tale of 1960s espionage and intrigue, with the requisite amount of sexiness and style.  

The book focuses on the exploits of Michael Swann, a British ex-secret agent-turned freelance security. Swann receives a tip from his former bosses about a British rocket scientist planning to defect to the Soviet Union. Joining the rocket base as head of security, Swann quickly finds himself the target of an assassination attempt while trying to ascertain the scientist's real plan. Before he knows it, Swann finds himself on a train moving deep inside Russia, where he must figure out how to get the scientist back while fending off a rival secret agent with whom he has a long and complicated history.

Byrne has been a mainstay of the comics industry since the 1970s, and knows how to utilize the format. Cold War expertly translates the beats of the spy film into graphic novel format, with continuous plot twists that drive the action and raise the stakes for Swann.

True to the title, the story is steeped in Cold War politics, although the reader is only required to have a cursory knowledge of the politics of the era. Comments about the living conditions in the Soviet Union may be lost on younger readers not familiar with the tales of gulags and bread lines, but these are minor details which shouldn't detract from the story. Scenes of sex and violence are present, but in keeping with the Bond-like theme, there’s nothing too graphic.

Cold War Vol. 1 is suggested for young adult (13+) and older for content, although the retro style of the book may be of more appeal to older readers who grew up with either the classic espionage films or who are familiar with the Cold War era.