THOMPSON HELLER, DETECTIVE INTERSTELLAR #1-3
Writer: Milton Lawson
Artist: Dave Chisholm
Colors: Fabian Cobos
Letters: Damon Kane
Publisher: Source Point Press & Comics Experience
WHAT IS IT?
Thom to some, Hell to most, crack detective for hire! Thompson Heller's a wry interstellar private dick whose terrible luck and unerring instincts mean he's always broke, usually drunk and never shaken. Usually.
WHAT'S IT ABOUT?
Lawson and Chisholm populate the stars with intricate, deep worlds through which Hell sails while barely skirting – and sometimes slamming right into – disaster. Throughout the first three issues, he takes on cases to help old friends, uncover corporate espionage, debunk capitalist nonsense and pretty much always make a nuisance of himself, the agitator.
At once a blend of classic '40s hard-boiled crime/noir and intricate '70s sci-fi, Thompson Heller, Detective Interstellar delights with its keen attention to detail, intricate plotting and incredible world-building.
Lawson pretty much nails the tone you need to pull off a weary noir detective. Decades of gritty pulp heroes are distilled into the acerbic-yet-charming Heller, whose keen wit, blistering sarcasm and moral center make him a protagonist we can get behind, and stay rooting for as the universe expands.
Chisholm's art is, well, stellar. Character design and sci-fi concepts are off the charts, with new creatures, backgrounds, clothing, weaponry and details popping in each panel and on each page turn.
Layouts are impressive, with the occasional spatter of texture outside a panel border to give a moment some grit and dirty the page a little. We saw this in CANOPUS and it's put to good use here, too. Of special note in terms of sequential skill and imagination are the ocean-scapes in issue #1, Elbee's broken-down design in issue #2 and Dr. Maxwell's "packing" montage in issue #3 – all different, and all exceptionally rendered.
Cobos understands how to pull a page together with an excellent color palette. Cobos usually favors mid to light tones and is selective with the main color blocks on each page. Details pop in a range of hues, but there's often a color or two – purple, orange, pink – that tracks through an entire layout to add cohesion and tons of visual interest to Chisholm's line. Cobos also favors picking out light sources in a way that complements Chisholm's cartooning, and the omnipresent overhead lighting in the series makes Hell feel like he's forever trapped in a searchlight – in a good way.
Kane's lettering is on point, with a peaky, even font that's pretty easy to read, even considering the occasionally explosive chaos on the page. Chisholm's imagination is on fire but his control and detail are intricate, and it can be a tough job for someone to determine placement and keep things readable. Kane does a fine job, and Chisholm's sound effects are a joy when they show up.
The deep storytelling here means we're basically dropped into each issue to soak in as much detail as we can. Lawson and Chisholm create wild and textured worlds to peruse at our leisure, with "throwaway" backgrounds in every scene and panel that net tiny moments of joy when we pause to scour the page. If you're more interested in the action, however, the storytelling's clear enough that you can sail on through, with each planet and case an impressionistic blur of emotional high notes and intrigue.
WHAT DOESN'T WORK?
If you're a fan of sci-fi that holds your hand and explains its concept, with transparent world-building, this comic will be a tough sell for you. However, if you're interested in taking a chance on a fast-paced dip into some hard sci-fi and crime, the experience is quite a treat.
The font is reedy enough at times that when Cobos favors pastels or bright colors on a page, the dialogue and narration can slow us down.
WHY SHOULD I READ IT?
Like crime? Read this comic. Like interstellar adventure stories? Read this comic. Like impressive, imaginative art with a high concept and near-flawless execution? Read this comic.
Chisholm does what he does best and the concept is a complete playground – you never know what's going to come next, and Lawson can more than keep up in terms of plotting and dialogue. Cobos makes the book come to life with a vivid palette, and Kane keeps things ticking along and readable – that alone is quite an accomplishment.
Thompson Heller, Detective Interstellar packs in a ton of intrigue, and a heck of a lot of cool detail. It also has heart – you'll like Hell both as a person and for his politics and pursuit of the truth, and you'll find yourself rooting for incidental characters as well. Bot, human or otherwise.
WHAT DO I READ NEXT?
If you like the writing:
Roger Ebert & Me, by Milton Lawson & Rem Broo
Wolverton, Thief of Impossible Objects by Michael Stark, Terrell T. Garrett & Jackie Lewis
The Space Heists of Vyvy & Qwerty, by Niall Presnall & Carlos Trigo
If you like the art:
Canopus by Dave Chisholm
Gryffen: Galaxy's Most Wanted by Ben Kahn & Bruno Hidalgo
Ether by Matt Kindt & David Rubín
ABOUT THE CREATORS
Milton Lawson (@citizenmilton) – Writer
On The Rise: Lawson's graphic novel series, Orson Welles: Warrior of the Worlds, is forthcoming from Scout Comics
Lawson keeps a blog on his site that covers movies, comics and more
Dave Chisholm (@chisholmdave) – Artist
Multitalented: As if Chisholm's Canopus and the forthcoming Chasin' the Bird: Charlie Parker in California weren't enough, he's also a talented jazz musician
Dave's a generous soul. Some of his music is available on his website for free!
Fabian Cobos – Colorist
Multitalented: Cobos is a colorist, artist and inker. Talk about skills!
Outlander: He hails from Mexico
WHERE DO I BUY IT?
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