REVIEW: The One Hand #4

In The One Hand #4, a crime noir series that has no peer in the field at the moment, battered Detective Ari Nassar’s hunt for the serial killer continues apace.  Along the way, we, the audience, are tantalised with the prospect that at last, we will begin to find answers to who the killer is, and why they have embarked on their course of mayhem and slaughter.

The One Hand #4Myth, psychology, language, memory.  The One Hand #4 takes the reader by the hand, leads them into a maze, then leaves them to find their way out.  Whether they do or not doesn’t really matter.  As is ever with this marvellous series, it is the journey that counts most of all.  Comprehension comes a distant second.

Of course, The One Hand #4 tantalises, but like the mythic character, that’s all we are offered – glimpses of who and why the killer has embarked on their killing spree again.  And that’s fine – indeed, that’s part of the allure of what writer Ram V, and artist Laurence Campbell, have created with this series.  Because I have a sneaking suspicion that if and when we find out who the killer is, and what their motives are, it won’t be as satisfying as the frankly sensational build up in the series so far.  But I would be more than happy to be proven wrong.

All that said, some of the veil separating the readership from the mystery is partially pulled away, but even then, Ram V simply adds more mystery to the mystery.  Is Ari hearing voices in the hospital ward?  Are there really two people behind the wall discussing the case?  And why do we see more and more instances of the writing the murder leaves behind at each scene of the crime replicated around the city Ari polices?  Is there something in what femme fatale Helene says about being haunted by a memory that isn’t real?  And what to make of the mixture of advanced science in what is ostensibly a 1970s New York City?

All these tantalising mysteries, mixed in with Campbell’s artwork, elevate The One Hand #4 from simply being a story about the hunt for a serial killer, into a real work of art that engages not just the gut emotions, but also theories about the nature of life, philosophy and what it is to be human.  Ram V has evoked not only the essentials of noir fiction – the sense of hopelessness the little guy feels against the vast, impersonal forces arrayed against them – but yokes them to a compelling story that inserts itself under the reader’s skin, and then goes for broke in burrowing ever deeper.  I’ve never really read anything like it, and lament the day the series comes to an end.

In summation, The One Hand #4 is a fantastic read.  If you just want to follow the mystery, then the writer and artist have created a world in which you can step into, and only escape with the greatest of difficulty.  But where The One Hand #4 stands out is that it isn’t simply a mystery, but an excursion into the mystery of human existence, and an even deeper examination of myth and memory.  Come for the mayhem, stay for the thoughtfulness that this series gently simmers in.

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Robert Mammone

Robert Mammone

Robert Mammone reviewed comics for two years for the Major Spoilers website and has reviewed DVD and blu ray releases for Impulse Gamer since 2013. Reviewing aside, Rob dabbles in writing genre fiction.

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