Cold Wind (Ninth Art Press): Writer Dan Mazur and artist Jesse Lonergan, of the Boston Comics Roundtable, bill this done-in-one story as Dashiell Hammett meets C.S. Lewis, or Hans Christian Andersen alternately. I’m going to put my spin on that and go ahead and call it Whiteout meets The Island of Misfit Toys… umm, that is, if Carrie Stetko was sent to assassinate King Moonracer. Mazur is able to pull off a little magic act and write a script that’s 24 pages long and only contains about 200 words in the entire issue. To put that in context, some of the more text heavy writers out there have been known to crowd their comics with 100 words per page. There are 5 page sequences that contain no dialogue or text whatsoever here and it creates a more solemn and moving experience. Mazur understands the strength of the medium, particularly when he’s paired with such an excellent panel to panel storyteller as Jesse Lonergan. The artist’s transitions are seamless, always careful to telegraph precise movements and clear intentions that quickly propel the intense and meaningful plot forward. There’s a strong level of detail, sense of place, and latent kinetic energy reverberating in his lines. The assassin infiltrates the ice compound of “King Winter” (that’s my term for him) in an opening act worthy of Ian Fleming’s infamous double-0 operatives, bypassing Polar Bear sentries with cold precision. Lonergan’s pencils are lean and muscular, like icicles punctuating the frozen landscape. The use of colors is amazing as well, using sparse reds and yellows to heat up the northern blues and grays, or zeroing our attention in on a couple choice inset panels. The color palette slowly transitions us out to warmer Earth tones and light pastels as news of the job is delivered to “King Spring” (again, my term for another wealthy competitor in this dangerous world). “Spring” discusses the job with the assassin and what it means amid his existential dilemma about leaving some form of legacy behind when he’s been given just a few months to live. There are subtle notes of environmentalism amid this more personal crisis, but what really sticks with me more than anything is the world Mazur and Lonergan have swiftly created. Though the creators indicate this is a one-shot, it’s so irresistible for me to imagine a world where a “King Summer” and “King Fall” would also be vying for global dominance with the new monarch of the frozen world and perhaps an ultimate replacement for the spring figure, moving their pawns and knights around the board issue after issue in their cyclical war. It’s a fertile world that could easily churn out more of these inventive stories. I’m also wondering if Mazur is a fan of George R. R. Martin. There’s a line at the end, “Cold winds are coming,” which could easily be homage to the Game of Thrones Stark family words “Winter is coming,” or even some of the advertising lines HBO has used for the series, like “Cold winds are rising.” It’s not a swipe or anything, just possibly a subtle nod in an otherwise wholly original world that leaves me desperately wanting more. Do yourself a favor and order this book today at www.NinthArtPress.com and check out one of the best small press titles I’ve read this year. I’m sincerely hoping that Mazur and Lonergan aren’t done with this world. I’d love to see more. Grade A+.