The Names (written by Peter Milligan with artwork by Leandro Fernandez) is a title I was aware of almost immediately after it debuted, but I’ve only just recently gotten around to diving in. I’m all about titles that feature people of color, especially women, so the cover grabbed me immediately. The story of an unlikely pairing on the run from a clandestine criminal organization kept me reading. The series is graphically violent, hard to put down, and features a heroine after my own heart.
The Names #1: The High Window – Part 1
Katya Walker is devastated when she learns her husband, Kevin (a financial trader), committed suicide by jumping from the 51st floor of his office building. She doesn’t believe the police when they tell her his medical records show a history of depression. She’s right to be suspicious as the issue begins with Kevin being forced to write a suicide note and jump – forced by a man who refers to himself as ‘The Surgeon.’
The Surgeon is a part of The Names – a secret group whose motives and influence aren’t quite clear at this point. We do learn that they’re fighting against something called The Dark Loops: transmuted parcels of sentient information. Yeah, I scratched my head, too. Basically, it sounds like AI infecting their computer systems.
Katya has to tell her husband’s son that his father is dead. Philip always resented Katya – she was half his father’s age – and has a condition called selective mutism. He hasn’t spoken a word since his father’s last visit so he’s unable (or unwilling?) to tell Katya anything that might help her make sense of his death.
Kevin arranged for Katya to receive a video message in the event of his death. As post mortem videos tend to be, it’s vague as hell. She can’t trust anyone, not even the police and especially not his friend and co-worker Marco. She must find The Key, the answer to everything. Great, Kevin. Just great.
Speaking of Marco, he comes calling with condolences and possibly something more. Katya shuts his ass down quick. It’s not until after he’s gone that she realizes he swiped the phone with Kevin’s message on it. She calls him up, faking an apology and gets herself invited to dinner at Marco’s place. She wastes little time confronting him about the phone. Things get very violent, with Katya doing a pretty damn good job of holding her own. She stabs Marco in the neck and demands to know who killed her husband. She gets a name: Giles Cameron.
Number of Times Katya Had to Jump Up Someone’s Ass: 3
The Names #2: The High Window – Part 2
One of the detectives who informed Katya of her husband’s death pays her another visit to ask about Marco. Katya feigns ignorance despite having a defensive wound bandaged on her hand. Guzman says Kevin’s death was officially ruled a suicide. Katya tells Guzman to fuck off.
The Surgeon threatens Guzman and demands that she either lose or contaminate the evidence that proves Katya was at Marco’s when he died. Marco was one of them; he’ll take care of Katya. Then, we get a bit more info on The Names and what they do. They monitor (and most likely manipulate) the entire world’s financial system. The system has become infected (by The Dark Loops, possibly). It has caused several market crashes all over the world in the past three years alone. Any attempt to simply wipe the system would send the world into the dark ages.
Meanwhile, Katya arranges a run-in with Giles and almost immediately starts asking questions with her fists. I love her. She beats his ass and he starts to tell her everything: her husband was killed because he knew too much, became dangerous. Before he can say the name, ‘The Surgeon,’ he has a stroke and dies.
Katya arrives at the hotel in Amsterdam where she and Kevin spent their honeymoon. A month prior he arranged a suite for her and left a map with an address highlighted. Before she can tell Philip any more, he has to go. The Surgeon is in his dorm, torturing his tutor downstairs.
Number of Times Katya Had to Jump Up Someone’s Ass: 4 (Philip two times)
The Names #3: The High Window – Part 3
Two members of The Names, Stoker and Flaherty, are assessing the situation. Giles died thanks to a failsafe they installed in his brain. Run your trap, get zapped. Okay, that sounded a lot better in my head. But here’s the thing, Flaherty doesn’t think it’s such a good idea that The Surgeon is on the case. His medical files pretty much suggest he’s a psychopath (You think?). Stoker isn’t alarmed.
Philip calls Katya back and tells her about hearing his tutor being tortured. She wants to hop on the first thing smoking back to NY, but he says she must stay and follow the clues his father left for them.
Meanwhile, Flaherty and Stoker have figured out that The Dark Loops have somehow managed to leave the computers and infect actual traders, causing them to do things that shut down Belgium’s economy. Yikes.
Philip flags down two police officers on the side of the road. Unfortunately, one is in The Names’ pocket and The Surgeon orders him to hold Philip until he can get there.
In Amsterdam, Katya arrives at the address on the map and is snatched up by three people who call themselves The Tulips. They’re ex-members of The Names who left because they didn’t agree with their practices. After they confirm that Katya is on their side, they explain that Kevin was also a Tulip. We also learn here that Katya is such a badass because Kevin insisted she get martial arts training. Seems he was preparing her for this fight without her knowing it.
While The Surgeon interviews (without fists or a knife) one of Philip’s other tutors, Philip calls Katya and they arrange to meet. He’s figured out Kevin’s coded message: they need to go to 1935 Nassau Street. Inside, they find a laptop and prepare to see what Kevin has to tell them next.
This issue was great. I love how quickly the story is progressing. Katya and Philip have a bizarre relationship. He confesses that he’s attracted to her and that’s why he was always so distant towards her. He reveals this after an innocent hug gave him a boner. He then goes into full oversharing mode and admits to masturbating to her pictures. Katya slaps the shit out of him and THE LOOK the brother at the counter gives her is EVERYTHING.
Also of note: Stoker calls Katya to warn her about The Surgeon, but because he’s one of The Names, she tells him to kick rocks.
Number of Times Katya Had to Jump Up Someone’s Ass: 4 (Including the awesome Philip slap)
The Names #4: The High Window – Part #4
Katya and Philip turn on the laptop expecting to see another message from Kevin. Instead, it’s The Surgeon. He watched Kevin’s message, deleted it, and recorded one of his own: he’s right behind them.
He’s there to kill Katya, but has orders to take Philip alive. Of course she’s not going to let that happen and the two fight. I love the way this series doesn’t shy away from making Katya a brawler. She gives as good as she gets – often even better. Here, though, The Surgeon knocks her out.
Stoker contacts Flaherty and admits he was right about The Surgeon: he’s out of control. Stoker then calls The Surgeon – interrupting his plans for Katya and Philip. Katya comes to just in time to hear The Surgeon’s end of the phone call from the next room. Considering The Surgeon secretly posed as a vigilante killing members of The Names who disagreed with Stoker, at Stoker’s direction, he’s not in the mood for Stoker to be telling him what to do now. He promises not to kill Philip, but he’s going to kill Katya because of what he learned by watching Kevin’s message: he knows she was being trained to fight them without even knowing it. And apparently she’s dangerous.
The Surgeon is just about to finish what he started when Flaherty and a team of commandos bust in. Unfortunately, The Surgeon already has one of the men on the team on his side and the traitor guns down the others. In the middle of the shootout, Katya and Philip manage to escape with the laptop. The Surgeon visits Flaherty (who’s face was badly injured in the fight) in the hospital and kills him.
Katya and Philip fly to New Mexico and get a hotel room. He tries to retrieve his father’s deleted message from the laptop and Katya decides to treat him to full on view of her naked body as she exits the shower. Hey, the kid said he’d never seen a naked woman before and she didn’t think it was right that he might die before it could happen. Best stepmom ever or nah?
Number of Times Katya Had to Jump Up Someone’s Ass: 3 (Including the awesome line, “Fuck you, stepson.”)