“The Names” #1 opens and closes on Wall Street, with the life of Kevin Walker being lost in the balance in this Vertigo comic by Peter Milligan and Leandro Fernandez. Pitched as a thrilling corporate espionage caper with just a pinch of mystery mixed in, the debut issue sends Walker’s widow, Katya, on a quest for vengeance.
Fernandez’s exaggerated anatomy carries the essence of Kelley Jones, as Kevin is given an ultimatum that bears the pricetag of his life. The artist works wonders with shapes and outlines, heavily shadowed and dramatically composed, forcing the plot to zip along despite its depth. Milligan’s story stretches from New York City to Macedonia to London and back to upstate New York, but Fernandez focuses on the shadowy aspects of those locales to tie everything together. Adam Stoker, Giles Cameron and the Surgeon are primary players in the nefarious deeds, and Fernandez makes each one of the characters visually distinct, regardless of their breadth in “The Names” #1. The main character, Katya, gets plenty of panel time, and through the artistic collaboration of Fernandez and colorist Cris Peter, readers see the range of emotions she endures in the wake of her husband’s passing, all couched within the rage pointed towards those who have wronged her.
Of course, “The Names” #1 is only the first part of the story. Milligan bookends the pain, grief and suffering with the act of Kevin Walker being coerced, spelling out for the readers the depth of evil present in the issue. What Milligan doesn’t share with readers is the why of Walker’s predicament, leaving them to wonder how all the events tie together, what might be a red herring and what might play a larger role before this series reaches its conclusion. Are the Dark Loops the cause of the problem? What’s with the hidden creepiness from Walker’s son, Philip? Milligan leaves the mysteries sitting out for readers to consider, and submerges them in Katya’s crusade, transforming her into an astonishingly relatable victim-turned-protagonist.
“The Names” #1 has been billed as “Kill Bill” meets “Wall Street,” but the first issue’s plot defies comparison. No elevator pitch can do this story justice, as Milligan’s gritty thriller grabs the readers while the story itself keeps them locked in. It’s a gripping read from start to finish, giving readers just enough to latch on to. While the mystery of how Kevin Walker died is given to the reader from the start, the developments around it and the revelations yet to come are what will make the series memorable. Judging by what Milligan and Fernandez give to readers in “The Names” #1, there’s going to be plenty of memorable moments yet to come in this story that is filled with credible characters and life-sized tragedy.