CSI: Intern at Your Own Risk
My expectations, given that this was a spin-off tie-in, were low enough that I was pleasantly surprised to get a likable character and reasonably enjoyable story in CSI: Intern at Your Own Risk (story by Sekou Hamilton and art by Steven Cummings).
Kiyomi is a student optimistically trying to cope with how badly the economy is treating her single father — the standard plucky manga schoolgirl type, in other words, who’s about to be given the opportunity to show how special she is, only in an American TV context. She’s one of five students chosen to intern with the Las Vegas CSI unit as part of a high school outreach program. As you might expect in stories of this type, the kids end up working together to solve a murder. It’s Scooby Doo with more science.
It is very unfortunate, given the CSI series’ emphasis on accurate evidence, that the artist gets some things flatly wrong. Blood and body position change slightly from one panel to the next in the opening scene. More confusingly, when the caption says “palm smears”, the art shows the back of the fingertips touching, not the palm. The cargo pant capris under Kiyomi’s dress (a horrible look) disappear at a key dramatic moment. The artist isn’t the only one having problems. Another caption refers to a “grizzly murder”; since no bear was involved, I think they meant “grisly”.
Although the artist has trouble with older characters appearing their age (a problem with many manga-influenced styles, I find), he handles the backgrounds and technology acceptably in most cases (although he sometimes varies spatial relationships too much from panel to panel). He’s also got a good grasp on expression, especially Kiyomi’s. The likenesses vary greatly. I only recognized Jim Brass, one of my favorites, because he was named. Gil Grissom was easy, because of the beard. Catherine appears as generic comic blonde, identifiable only because of her role as the only decision-making woman. The known characters, these and others, appear in supporting roles throughout the book, keeping an eye on the kids and demonstrating various lab settings and techniques.
I found it very interesting that a key scene indicates that Kiyomi was selected because they specifically didn’t want their five interns to be all male. Is someone making a statement about standardized testing being limited in what it can tell you about a candidate’s potential? Or echoing typical stereotypes about girls not being as good at science? I support the concept, of actively working for diversity, but I’m very curious how it’s received by readers. I would hate to think of someone thinking, “yeah, chicks need special help because they’re not as smart.”
The other four interns aren’t very well-developed, because there’s not much space for it. The book has to stage a murder, show the kids selected, get the program established, tour the lab, display the evidence, set up an unsubtle red herring, do research, and oh, yeah, solve the murder in only 160 pages of story. The pacing can be jumpy and abbreviated.
One of the students is creepily obsessed with forensics. Another is a science geek (complete with bow tie – really?). I got him confused with the egotistic overachiever, because both have similar length light hair, and there’s not much else to distinguish them. (Kiyomi also appears to be a twin of the victim, since they’re both dark-haired teenage girls.) The last is a jock with near-military demeanor who cheated his way in.
Overall, I found this an entertaining beach read to while away an afternoon, just as I find episodes of the show watchable but not particularly memorable. I don’t want to spoil anything, but some will find the killer’s motivation, which involves overtones of gay panic, objectionable. The book, larger than the typical manga digest, also contains a short preview of a new CSI text novel. (The publisher provided a review copy.)