What will immediately catch your eye about Victor Santos’ newest work, Polar: Came From the Cold, is the sharp knife-cuts of ink spread through out the white page. Black for the shadows and mystery men. Orange Pollock-style splatters for the blood that soaks through these action-packed pages. Santos, a veteran of the gritty and sexy (Pulp Heroes, Black Kaiser, Young Ronins, and Filthy Rich — most of which have been written in his native Spain), spins a modern spy thriller with a vintage feel. The world of Polar is full of spies, double agents, assassins, femme fatales, hidden knives, and cell phone-activated machine gun turrets.
We meet Black Kaiser, a retired spy from the Cold War era, who lives a secluded life in a cabin in the woods. Unfortunately — or fortunately (nothing like fresh blood to get the old ticker kicking again) — for him, a new generation of assassins are out to wipe him out. This doesn’t sit well for the veteran Kaiser, who makes quick work of his assailants. He even has enough time to do the dirty with his double agent girlfriend, who he thanks with a bullet to the head.
There’s a bigger conspiracy at hand: an agency known as Damocles has risen from the ashes of the Cold War espionage scene, and they’re cleaning house, forcing all the old-timers to “retire.” This doesn’t sit well with Kaiser, who dusts off his old tricks, and heads for a collision course with the leader of Damocles, the very sexy femme fatale Miss Vian.
Black Kaiser will immediately remind you of anti-heroes such as Snake Plissken (Kaiser even wears an eye patch) and John Hartigan from the classic Frank Miller pulp noir series, Sin City. In fact, it’s impossible to ignore that Santos was inevitably influenced by Miller’s savage crime stories. Every panel is full of harsh violence and raw sexual energy. Moments of tension either end in passion or death.
Polar: Came From the Cold is one of my favorite graphic novels of the year for its fresh, fast-paced approach. Reading this yarn is pure fun, and I can only hope that we’ll see a lot more of Black Kaiser next year. Starting in January, Dark Horse will release a new superhero series by Santos called Furious. While that’s great news, I can only hope that Black Kaiser won’t be pushed back into retirement.
Polar: Came From the Cold hits shops on November 27th!