Writer: David Pepose Art: Jorge Santiago, Jr. Publisher: Action Lab Entertainment
WHAT IS IT?
A PTSD-tinged noir mystery with strong dystopian Sunday funny roots.
Imagine Chinatown meets Calvin & Hobbes if the main character had a lot of unresolved issues and imagined his childhood friend/stuffed animal was his partner.
You can read the review for the previous issues here.
WHAT'S IT ABOUT?
This issue follows four separate characters and their individual, concurrent paths.
Locke is unconscious, stuck in a dream where he's in World War II, fighting nazi killer mutant snowmen.
Roach continues on to the next stage of his killing spree.
Locke's daughter, Hero, dons the cape and cowl and becomes the tiniest detective.
And Locke's reporter girlfriend, Melinda, gets to the bottom of the case.
The creative team carries on with their fantastic style choices mentioned in previous reviews, so consider these bullets as icing on top of the cake that is all of those aforementioned points.
David Pepose has some devastatingly clever lines in this series, and there are a couple great ones this issue.
Because we follow multiple characters, we get four different narratives. Pepose ensures the tone stays well within the noir genre, but does well to give each character their own unique voice. He also reintroduces us to the characters – their names, how they relate to the other characters, and their mission. It's really helpful if you're reading month-by-month, and it's executed really smoothly.
The previous bullet is taken to the next level by Colin Bell giving each their own caption style. Melinda's script is much like Locke's, but on unlined paper that looks like it could've been part of a Post-It note. Hero's letters are wider, spaced a little further apart, on white paper, giving the sense of a younger person who still isn't used to writing sentences.
Roach is portrayed as terrifying through low-angle shots that make him seem larger-than-life and a caption style that's evil and inhuman against the other characters' brighter, handwritten ones.
It's interesting how Roach's monologue is about being able to survive anything – he really is like a cockroach that way.
The panel that comes after Roach's survival monologue (shown below) ends works on many levels. The whole thing is a sound effect that punctuates the scene. The entire sound effect is a close-up of Roach's face, made even more monstrous because of the parts that are hidden and the eerie green that contrasts with the rest of the page. It also just adds so much style to the book, using untraditional panels like this. It's the perfect example of the entire creative team working together to make the story the best it can be.
Jasen Smith carries that "contrasting colors" trick through the rest of the issue. It feels influenced by the old Sunday Funnies and classic superhero comics, but it also serves to draw the eye to those panels, heighten their effect, or separate juxtaposed panels from each other to give them the sense that each carries its own significance.
Hero is immediately endearing and likable (if she wasn't enough already). Her opening monologue is possibly the best in the history of superhero monologues, and her stuffed bunny companion does not seem to be anthropomorphized (yet?) but it's cute in an odd sort of way how she mimics her father. I also wonder if a certain bit of dialogue in her scene foreshadows a spin-off/jump forward in time later in the series.
I liked how we get the feeling Locke is slowly waking up, mostly due to the destabilization of his dream, and the appearance of the roaches, almost as if his mission is calling him back to consciousness.
WHAT DOESN'T WORK?
Murder, cursing, adult themes make this a far cry from the Sunday Funnies it's based on (though you were warned on the front cover!)
We lose a little of the feral Spencer storyline (or much Spencer plot at all) set up in the first issue of this arc. The creators might be playing the long game with that, setting it. up for future arcs as a slow devolution of Spencer with Locke's mental stability.
(SPOILER ALERT for the ENDING) The reveal at the end is a mixed bag. It made Roach baby-faced and attractive, not scary at all, which makes his fearsomeness less effective, but it also humanizes him and reminds us that even monstrous individuals are still people. And, while we discover his connection to certain characters, I struggle to remember without re-reading if we've met him before. It might make more sense or have greater effect for people reading the issues as part of a trade. That being said, the two sides of Roach Riley are a fantastic example of using the comics medium in a way that simply would not work in TV, film or audio drama. Either way, I trust in the creators enough to hold off judgment and see how things shake out next issue to judge the reveal's full effectiveness!
WHY SHOULD I READ IT?
Spencer & Locke is an immensely enjoyable and well made detective story with a fresh, new spin. Highly polished and disruptive to the genre and medium, fans of crime noir or innovative storytelling must pick this up.
I cannot overstate how great of a comic this is.
WHAT DO I READ NEXT?
If you like the writing:
Spencer & Locke, Vol. 1 by David Pepose & Jorge Santiago, Jr.
Calvin and Hobbes by Bill Watterson
Sin City by Frank Miller
If you like the art:
Curse of the Eel by Jorge Santiago, Jr.
Criminal by Ed Brubaker & Sean Phillips
Deadbeat by Jed McPherson & Chris Shehan
ABOUT THE CREATORS
David Pepose – Writer
Multitalented: Currently developing properties for film, TV & comics out in LA
Has also worked for CBS, Netflix, Universal Studios and DC Comics
Originally from St. Louis, where your favorite Comic Book Yeti lives
Jorge Santiago, Jr. – Artist
Has a career in graphic design
Has been "training in the comics arts" since he was 17
Jasen Smith – Colorist
Multitalented: Has also been a newspaper writer, cartoonist, voice jockey and a freelance graphic designer
Has been working as a full-time colorist since 2013
Colin Bell – Letterer
Multitalented: Has also written a couple comics, one of which (Dungeon Fun) won a SICBA award
Outlander: Lives in Scotland
Nicole D'Andria – Editor
Multitalented: Has adapted one of my daughter's favorite shows, Miraculous: Tales of Ladybug and Cat Noir, to comics
Also is marketing director and submissions editor for Action Lab Entertainment, and writes articles for Comic Frontline
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