THIS REVIEW OF COLD IRON #1 CONTAINS MINOR SPOILERS.
by Kate Kowalski. The moon hangs like a spotlight over the sea, illuminating an ocean-fed cavern. The water froths, wading closer and closer to the entrance. Within, the moon beams onto a silhouetted horned figure—a man, or man-of-sorts to be sure, cloaked in furs and chains atop a stone throne. He commands an army of winged and pointy-eared figures we only can catch a glimpse of from behind.
On the next page, we come face-to-face with some ferocious and ghoulish creatures roaring in the night. A moment of relief however, as these prove to just be masks donned by children for Halloween night, or “Hop-tu-Naa” as it’s called on the Isle of Man. These kids consider it good fun to dance within a stone circle; the supernatural is alive and celebrated here, walls between worlds more permeable than anywhere else, any other night.
The opening of Cold Iron feels like a sequence from a classic Halloween film, the threat of real monsters juxtaposed with the tricks and treats of nearby children. But Halloween night is simply the starting point for this ComiXology original series, the portal to an ongoing skirmish with the supernatural. We learn more from the grandmother of the series’ hero, Kay. After a night off from tending the pub and playing the only gig she can seem to land, Kay takes a whisky at her gran’s farm where we are warned of the “Longtails” (don’t you dare call them rats, not on the Isle of Man) and realize the utmost importance of touching cold iron on the way out the door.
Cold Iron is an homage to the myths and legends that belong to one of the most uniquely situated islands in the world. As writer Andy Diggle says in the Cold Iron press release, “The Isle of Man is a magical place, and holds a very special place in my family’s heart. From neolithic burial sites to Celtic stone circles and Viking castles, the island carries a sense of the ancient in its very bones.”
You can feel it more and more as the book unfolds. Kay’s night takes a turn as she nearly runs over a lost girl in the street. Helping her proves to be a hazard and the two are on the run from the black dog, Moddey Dhoo, and another creature decidedly worse than a mere shapeshifting glashtyn. Taking refuge in an empty mansion armed with a small ax and a fire poker, they must get through the night alive.
The story is tightly spun. Diggle has a wild, grand tale to weave in four issues and the story is strung from one moment of suspense to the next, underscored beautifully by the strategic darkness conjured by artist Nick Brokenshire. Upon an important warning or horrific realization, the surrounding world drops away and the character within the panel is alone in a black square. Brokenshire casts many figures and surroundings in silhouette as the tale is mainly lit by fire or moonlight. The effect is eerie as Kay pushes through the forest, black leaves encroaching on all sides.
A supernatural thriller with a female protagonist filled with superstition, the Fae, and a dash of time travel—I’m here for the ride. There’s something sinister at work here on this little island. A bargain seems to have been struck between the mortal and immortal realms and getting through Halloween night might prove to be a feat for Kay and her new, suspiciously old-fashioned ward, Mona. Will touching a horseshoe or carrying a bit of iron be protection enough?
Kay doesn’t have much power in her corner; all she’s got is her gran and Mona, a deadbeat boyfriend, and a busted car. But she’s also got a lot of guts and a strong survival instinct. We’ll see if that’s enough to bolster her against the mythical forces of old.
Comixology / $6.99
Written by Andy Diggle.
Art by Nick Brokenshire.
Colors by Triona Farrell.
Letters by Simon Bowland.
Designed by Tom Muller.
Cold Iron #1 & 2 are available to read on ComiXology now.