Since announcing their arrival with a tremendous barrage of comics during their first wave, TKO continues to go from strength to strength. Now with three waves of graphic novel sized stories available, TKO appears to be trying something new as they focus on their second wave of shorts, single issue, self contained stories. With all three entries of this wave being released, we check out one of them, Hand Me Down by Alex Paknadel, Jen Hickman and Simon Bowland.
Hand Me Down tells the story of Lyra, a Brooklyn born wife and mother whose marriage looks to have hit shaky ground when her husband, Reuben, is promoted. This leads to a change of lifestyle for them and their son when Reuben’s desire to keep up with his colleagues leads to a relocation to a suburb when many of them reside. However, when the pair are invited to a party held by Magnus, Reuben’s boss, which seems to offer its guests the chance to fulfil their darker impulses, a disturbed Lyra flees while Reuben remains. However, when Reuben returns home the next morning, Lyra realises that her husband is somehow different. So now Lyra must figure out who this person is, what happened to Reuben and if it can be reversed.
Alex Paknadel has written a wonderfully compelling story here that has a real essence of the film Sommersby but with a more supernatural twist. Opening with a sequence which feels very Eyes Wide Shut and continuing with a vibe reminiscent of What Lies beneath and Starman, Paknadel tells a rather heartbreaking tale about the downfall of a marriage and the comprises we are forced to make to make them work. The lead characters, Lyra and Reuben feel perfectly formed here, particularly Lyra whose beaten and broken but determined matriarch comes across as so real you can’t help but route for her.
Meanwhile, Reuben’s take as a distant husband with a suspiciously sudden outlook change is also incredibly compelling, particularly when you realise that his face is covered before the morning after the party (as if Paknadel and Hickman only want you to associate his appearance only with his ‘changed’ self). Regardless, Hand Me Down seems to make the statement that appearances can be deceptive from the get go as many of the characters appear to be hiding something (as the masquerade party would certainly imply), which assist in heightening the intrigue and maintaining readers investment.
Meanwhile, artist Jen Hickman really lends an unsettling atmosphere to this tale with fantastic art which is very reminiscent to Cliff Chiang’s work on Wonder Woman. Hickman’s style also appears as though it is laced with a little Francesco Francavilla in order to (successfully) heighten the horror elements. As a result, the artwork really compliments the story incredibly well, as it comes across as incredibly grounded and heartfelt for the majority but takes a fantastically dark and creepy turn when the story demands it.
TKO has found themselves another success with Hand Me Down as this short matches the quality and interest offered by some of its bigger siblings. With Paknadel offering up an emotionally complex story which resonates unease with help of Hickman’s tremendous art, this is a single issue tale that will make you hope and wish that more would be to come.