Spencer and Locke #1
Writer David Pepose’s high concept for Spencer and Locke is “what if Calvin and Hobbes grew up in Sin City“, and that’s pretty much all you need to know about the comic. Faux tough-guy narration comes from a jaded detective with anger issues who drags around a blue stuffed animal, a panther that he calls his partner Spencer and only he sees as a living, talking, full-size being. In a kid, it’s cute. In this comic, I’m just waiting until he’s forced to confront his mental illness.
Jorge Santiago, Jr. does a decent job with both the comic-strip-inspired flashbacks and the moody present-day investigation of the death of Locke’s childhood girlfriend. There are a number of women in this comic, but they’re all cliches: an abusive mother, the dead girlfriend, an ugly, grumpy teacher, a dead grandmother, a child used as a prize to capture, and a cameo by a waitress. Then again, most of this comic consists of things we’ve seen before.
I really need to call out the coloring of Jasen Smith as well, since he gives everything a sickly neon tone, shifted into dark purples and cinnamons, to contrast with Spencer’s deep blue color. It’s very effective. (There are preview pages at the bottom of this post so you can see what I mean.)
My biggest question is, would anyone be reading this four-issue miniseries if it didn’t trade on the goodwill of a much-better-known comic? I doubt it. Without the aspect of twisting and deforming a beloved strip, this would be just another generic damaged-tough-guy revenge story. And that means I have a hard time giving this comic the benefit of the doubt. On the other hand, perhaps a story about searching for justice in a damaged, abusive world needs to beat up someone else’s property in a kind of parallel construction.
I would be more favorably inclined to the comic if it included some kind of tribute or afterword acknowledging just how much Pepose and Santiago are using someone else’s creations. But instead, we get a cover gallery and a few pages of character designs. (The writer provided a digital review copy.)