April 1952, Los Angeles. After thirteen-year-old Sandy Duncan shoots his stepfather in the temple and carves a symbol into the corpse's forehead in imitation of a comic book, district attorney Seymour Markley launches a grand jury investigation into the murder and its causes, an investigation that could implicate crime boss James Manning and end his thirty-year career. Also potentially implicated: the comic book's creator, Eugene Dahl. Threatening notes begin appearing nailed to his front door, notes that draw him to a downtown hotel where one of the district attorney's witnesses is being held. There, Eugene finds the witness murdered, as well as the police officer charged with protecting him; and he finds himself framed for those murders.