The Silent Invasion: Red Shadows

A paranoid tale set in fifties America, when your next-door neighbour was probably a closet communist and UFOs seemed to herald an invasion from outer space

Silent Invasion: Red Shadows by Michael Cherkas and Larry Hancock

The Silent Invasion is a difficult graphic novel to categorise. Set in America during the 1950s, it’s a hard-boiled drama about a journalist living on the edge. Everyone’s paranoid about a communist invasion, so anything and everyone suspected of connecting to Russia in any way is subjected to a witch hunt. But in this reality, the communist threat could be hiding something even more dangerous: an invasion by aliens, who are flying their space ships around the desert, abducting citizens and subjecting them to unknown horrors.

Michael Cherkas and Larry Hancock's The Silent Invasion

The art style contradicts the serious, paranoid nature of the story. The characters are all stylised 50s cartoons: muscular, broad-shouldered men in suits and trilbies; and women with pinched waists in pencil-thin skirts. The monochromatic story is shaded with screentone made from dots, giving the whole thing the impression that it could have been created in the fifties for printing in a newspaper. However, the story is more sophisticated than the illustration lets on, with its unreliable narrator and layers of plot, subterfuge and paranoia.

However, it didn’t really work for me. The plot is slow to unfold and the art does its best to hide its cast of spooks and hacks in similar-looking trench coats and trilbies. Some of this is perhaps deliberate – our unreliable narrator is himself confused and prone to getting people mixed up – but the story might have been easier to follow, I think, if it had been illustrated with greater clarity.

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