Writer: Alex de Campi
Artwork: Tony Parker, Blond
Release Date: 2nd November 2016
I have a thing for 70s Spy Thrillers. It’s really a bit of an affliction, it’s also the reason The Winter Soldier is probably my favourite Marvel movie to date (I’ll fight anyone that says otherwise). So, with that said, how could I not jump at the chance to review this comic? Set in Western USA, Mayday is about a Russian defector who has handed himself over to the FBI and is under house arrest in LA. This sparks off a race between the CIA and the KGB for who will get to the General first. However, before we move on, let’s just broaden the strokes a little: it’s the height of the Cold War and the Vietnam War hasn’t finished yet; It’s a time of conflict in the US, the 60s have passed and the summer of love is dying off; Nixon is in office, and drug use is developing from LSD to Cocaine and Heroin; Meanwhile, bands like The Who and Zeppelin are re-defining music as we know it.
We now add into this melting pot of paranoia and rebellion an overconfident FBI agent, a meticulous CIA agent, and two Russian operatives, one familiar with ‘The West,’ and one plucked straight from the heart of Mother Russia, not too bright, but loyal, impressionable, and basically a walking trigger. What could possibly go wrong? The answer is: everything!
Mayday is one hell of a fun read. What makes it so compelling is that author Alex de Campi (Smoke, Archie vs. Predator) has done her homework – she’s actually researched what it was like working for the three-letter agencies in the 70s and how everyone was basically winging their way through the Cold War at this point, and that things went wrong all the time. Taking this on board she’s started a dialogue that is a compelling read with some random incredulity that could only take place in California in the 70s. By going that extra mile and merging the narrative with the spirit and music of the time Alex gives this story additional dimension, and makes it an almost interactive experience for the reader (there is even a Spotify playlist). It’s really very cool.
Backing up Alex’s script in the Art Department is Tony Parker (This Damned Band), and it is quite simply a brilliant choice of artist for this script. Let’s just say some LSD and Sodium Pentothal is involved in this issue so there are some fairly heavy visuals, and Tony’s previous work on TDB was clearly relevant when it came to Alex choosing an artist for this project. Let me tell you right now, the art – especially the scenes with our characters high – are both jaw dropping and incredible. I was impressed with the art from the start. Most of the opening act takes place one evening and the use of darkness and shadow to define detail against the open star-filled LA sky was impressive enough, but then we get high and things get weird in the best possible way. We’re treated to a glorious cacophony of image and colour courtesy of Tony’s lines and Blond’s colours; [I think] it’s exceptional.
Mayday is a great little find. I went in looking forward to one thing – a spy story – and got so much more. It almost carries the sense of chaos you’d expect from a Hunter S Thompson story, it definitely had a touch of the fantastic to it which only adds to your reading enjoyment as you can believe these things actually happened in the 70s. There is a tangible realism in a ‘that would never happen to me, but I can believe it happened to someone else’ sense, and if that isn’t enough to sell you it’s pretty funny in places too. I’m so glad I stumbled over this, it deserves your attention.
To find out more about Mayday, make sure to check out our interview with Alex de Campi and Tony Parker by CLICKING HERE.
The writer of this piece was: Andrew McGlinn
Andrew Tweets from @Jockdoom.