When I started reading comic books, at 11 or 12, I thought Todd Mcfarlane was God’s gift to humanity. That may seem a little blasphemous but its true; I was raised catholic and I use to look forward to going to mass because all the children would get together in the back rows to show off their new Mcfarlane toys. I would stay up late to watch the HBO Spawn series praying my parents didn’t walk in and catch me watching such a “grown-up” show. My love of all things Mcfarlane got to the point where, against my better judgement, I found myself defending the Spawn movie. I even have a silver copy of Spiderman #1 somewhere (I used to think it would be worth millions by now.)
So when I saw the solicitation for a new Sam and Twitch miniseries I decided I would look in to it as a small indulgence for the fanboy in me that I normally try to keep suppressed. I don’t really remember much of anything about them other than they were cops in the Spawn series. I also remember really liking the chemistry of the duo; Sam being a blue-collar slap’em cop while Twitch was always the more cerebral and meticulous detective. At best I was hoping it would hit some nostalgic buttons me, remind, for a moment, why I thought this stuff was so cool back then.
To my surprise this book was quite the page turner. Sam and Twitch are investigating the murder of a man whose throat has been slashed. More interesting, though, his body has been found covered in writing. Everyone fears that given the m.o. of the killer, dubbed The Writer, the murder is only the first in what could turn into a series of killings. The detectives are begrudgingly assigned to work with a Dr. Garland, a professor of criminology who consults the NYPD on graphological profiling. Their investigation is hampered by what seems to be a flu pandemic and a giant snowstorm. This story is pretty much step-up but damn if it doesn’t excel at doing that seamlessly.
For a story about a pretty grisly murder this book has a refreshingly subtle sense of humor. For instance, when Sam is interrogating a chinese suspect that doesn’t speak English he oratorates a pretty managled version of the zen koan “no snowflake ever falls in the wrong place.” It seems pretty out of character except that the whole thing is a non-sequitor about how Chinese people never provide him with any answers that make sense.
Although this book eventually won me over it wasn’t perfect. The first couple of pages specifically were pretty bad. In these pages, which were prefaced with a time stamp, Sam is in some sort of butcher’s freezer, where has apparently discovered something important. Oh but surprise surprise, unknown to him he’s not alone as what may turn out to be our killer is lurking in the shadows. Sam is attacked with a machete and then locked into a smaller comparment. In the next page the timeline turns back by twenty hours. I am not endeared to this storytelling motif. Yes, sometimes, like in the finale of Spartacus: Blood and Sand (to use an example from a different medium that is fresh in my head) it can be used to amazing results. In that particular case the timeline switches back and forth to keep the audiences unsure of what alligeances have been made between two characters. However, here it is being used typical to cast an aura of suspence around the whole series. Its unnessecary and its falls flat as no reader actually thinks this series is going to kill off Sam. The quality of this story speaks for itself and its unfortunate that the writer thought he needed to spice things up.
It would be unconscionable to review this book without bringing up the issue of the lettering. This book is unusual in this respect because, unlike most comics books, this series doesn’t place the text in some sort of caption box. The text is placed directing on the image. Here’s an example:
This can be incredibly frustrating sometimes, like during conversations and especially when the characters are shown outside in the snow storm. Ultimately, however, I think it works for two reasons: 1) the thematic nature of the story being about writing and 2) as this picture shows this story is incredibly dense. I think if the writing would be surrounded with white space it would eclipse 80% of the art.
The art, itself, is solid but nothing that really knocks my socks off. It reminds me of the Luna brothers art except a little less clean. Its terms of layout, however, this book is fantastic. This book is composed of many panels, I can’t even recall seeing a single page spread anywhere in the book. Fortunately those panels are lay outed perfectly, managing to narrate the story without a hitch.
Final Verdict: B ( I really didn’t like the time switch)