Sanction #1 Review

Sanction #1 Review

By Daniel Schwartz

I have to say, I am a sucker for a good comic cover. A great-looking cover can draw in a reader who might not have picked up the book otherwise. That said, the cover of Mad Cave Studios’ Sanction #1 is badass. The threatening-looking figure with an axe and the Soviet star, hammer, and sickle look amazing. Not only does the cover give you a sense of the setting, but it also gives you a sense of the dark, gritty tone of the comic—enough about the cover. Let’s talk about what’s inside.


It is New Year’s Day 1987 on the streets of Leningrad (known as Saint Petersburg post-Soviet Union). Detective Pavel Smirnoff comes to a crime scene where a woman was found naked and dead on the street. Looking for a quick closure to the case, he hands it off to his partner Boris Dimitrovich and suggests that he find a random drunk to pin the crime on so he can get a closed case. Boris is not about to do that.

As Boris begins his investigation, he learns that it may be more complex than he ever imagined. Knowing that working the case could potentially put his partner and family at risk, he presses forward to solve the mystery.


This issue was very well written. I am not a huge fan of murder mysteries, but I really enjoyed this one. Ray Fawkes begins a story that is sure to have twists, turns, and surprises along the way. He does a great job of fleshing out the story’s main characters as well. You get a good sense of who Pavel and Boris are and their motivations. It can be difficult to express that with a limited number of panels and pages in a comic. Fawkes makes full use of the panels he is given and illustrates the vast differences between the partner detectives. It will be interesting to see how their opposing styles and priorities develop as the story progresses.

I was also a fan of the setting he chose for the story. I have not read too many comics that take place in this time period and location (outside of Black Widow flashbacks). It is a fascinating setting because it is at the very end of the Soviet Union. The country is starting to decline, and cracks are starting to show. I am curious to see if Fawkes uses the beginning of the fall of the Soviet Union as a plot point.


I can’t say enough about the cover. It was one of the reasons that I chose to review this issue, and I am sure glad I did. The artwork inside is also really well done. I am a fan of the more squared features in faces. I also think it is cool that the scenes that take place out in the city have a blue hue (reminiscent of Payback). Like the writing, Antonio Fido’s artwork tells the story in gritty detail. The artwork definitely compliments the writing.


I really enjoyed this issue. It was well written, had amazing artwork (especially the cover), and drew me into a genre I don’t usually go for. I give this 5 out of 5 Pastrami Nations. I can’t wait to read issue 2!

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