Written by Guest Contributor: Jason DiGioia The comic world is sorely lacking in truly original content. Rehashes, reimaginings, and comic adaptations of TV and film are all industry standards. Enter Creature Cops: Special Varmint Unit. I’m no repository of comic history, so I might be wrong, but I’ll say that as far as I know, there’s never been a book about animal cops who wrangle hybrid animals. Somebody fact check me on that.
The concept is actually pretty apropos considering we live in a world of genetic modification. The meat industry has been modifying animals for many years to increase the bottom line, so it’s not difficult to imagine the Chinese government creating a Panda Dog for commercial sale. It’s also not hard to imagine the U.S. following suit, loosening regulations, and opening the floodgates for companies to hybridize animals and turn a profit. And like many ideas rooted in pure greed, there are repercussions. Cue the Creature Cops to go out and clean up the hybrid animal mess.
Writing in this book is solid. Rob Anderson has created quite a cast of characters to work with. There are seven cops in the unit, and while Anderson does a good job shedding some light on all of them, I couldn’t help but feel that I didn’t learn anything truly gripping about anyone. But, this is only issue 1, so there’s room for growth. I do appreciate the sexual tension between rookie Vasquez and Lt. Carson; it’s a storyline that has some potential. The character of Kaminski reminds me a bit of Andy Sipowicz from NYPD: Blue so far as he looks like him, and while he isn’t established as a full-fledged alcoholic, he does wake up on a bar table full of empty glasses from the night before, so it’s strongly implied. With the gravity of alcoholism lurking, it will be interesting to see what direction Anderson takes the character.
One thing that I found slightly frustrating was an imbalance in tone. Maybe it’s the hybrid animals and my inability to take their existence seriously. On the artistic side, Fernando Melek, Novo Malgapo, and Juan Romera (penciler, inker, and colorist respectively) do a fine job with the animals; they do create what I think a gator-snake (very cool) or a tiger-hound would look like, so it’s not a problem with artistic execution; it’s a problem with me laughing at the animals occasionally. Combined with the darker Kaminski and a very serious event to end this first issue, I felt that the book never found the right balance of serious and silly. Hopefully that gets ironed out in future issues. Maybe the fault is my own for not taking all the animals seriously. Maybe I’m still in hybrid animal shock. Like I said as I opened this review, this is an original story, and the animals are the most original part.
As someone who is reasonably knowledgeable about animal rights issues, I read CC:SVU as a metaphor for a lot of the problems in our world today: outrageous stray animal populations, factory farming, genetic engineering, exotic pet smuggling, and the overall arrogance of humans concerning our animal friends. Maybe I’m thinking too deeply. Maybe I say maybe too much.But I hope that future issues of CC:SVU explore some of these problems more deeply. There’s a great cost to playing around with nature, and this series has the potential to shed a light on that in a really creative way.
Writer: Rob Anderson Artist: Fernando Melek Publisher: IDW Publishing Price: $3.99 Release Date: January 2015 Format: Mini-series; Print/Digital