By Daniel Vlasaty
Locke is a homicide detective that doesn’t know when to quit. Spencer is his partner. Spencer’s the voice of reason in this partnership, and that is not a good thing. For one, Spencer can’t seem to keep Locke “locked” down, and also because Spencer is not real. He’s an imaginary friend. He’s a stuffed panther. And he also gets car sick. But whatever, because the boys are hot on the trail of Sophie’s murderer and this is a case that’s bigger than what it appears to be. Nothing is as it seems and this is one case that keeps pulling Locke back into his rough and checked past.
Issue #2 of Spencer & Locke picks up right where the first ended. With Locke – basically – torturing Stanley for information. He plays a game he calls Convictball, which is really just him beating the shit out of a dude with a cricket bat until the dude tells him what he wants to hear. Locke brags about how good he is at the game, about how he never loses. The game is stacked in his favor, though, because the other dude’s tied up and literally just getting the shit beat out of him. So, if Locke didn’t have a 100% win rate I’d be kind of worried. Locke doesn’t seem to have any hesitation to almost immediately resort to torture. But I guess it’s okay if it’s to solve a murder. Or something.
A beaten and bloody Stanley leads Locke (and Spencer) to The Red Rose, which is a strip club. But from the way Locke’s reacting to it I gather that it’s not a good or particularly nice one. He calls it “hell on Earth,” so there’s that. Locke tells us how terrible this place is and that he’d never come here if it was for anyone else. Only Sophie. I’m not a homicide detective but I don’t think it works like that. I don’t think you’re supposed to let your personal connection to a victim effect an investigation. I think you’re supposed to approach every case like it’s the most important thing in the world. Not just the one where you knew the victim personally. But I get what the point of him telling us this is. It’s to show that he’s super-extra motivated to find Sophie’s killer. To follow this case wherever it may go, even if that means a place as “bad” as The Red Rose. I think it has the opposite effect, though, I think it shows that he’s kind of a shitty cop. Now, if he said something about how shitty of a place The Red Rose is but it didn’t matter, that he’ll brave it as long as it would take a murderer off the street (not just the person that killed a former friend of his) that would be a different story.
I don’t know.
Again, much like in my review of issue #1, I feel like I am getting kind of nit-picky about some little things. But in the grand scheme of the story, these are not that small of things. These are the main character’s own words. This is the dude that we’re supposed to root for and follow throughout the series. But I just don’t like him. I think he’s kind of a douchebag and I wish the story was more focused on Spencer. Give me an imaginary stuffed panther homicide detective over this fucking dude any day.
I also said this in my review of issue #1, but I just feel like the writing is pretty clunky. This issue is action-packed and it moves and all that good stuff. But that’s nothing to get too excited about, because that’s what books and stories are supposed to do. But here everything just felt too coincidental and, I don’t know, impermanent. None of it seemed to matter to me. Or maybe I just didn’t care what was happening. I kind of feel like I was watching a bad movie with the sound off and just adding my own shitty dialogue over it. If that makes any sense.
The story is dark and gritty enough for my tastes but it just felt like it was missing something. And this isn’t even taking into account that Locke’s partner is a make-believe panther. This is playing it straight. It’s just not believable enough for me (and again, I understand that his partner is a make-believe panther). Things are just happening too quickly, maybe, and without the emotional build-up and backing that a story like this needs to work.
The art, too, I felt like it was good but just maybe not good enough. I will say that I think it’s better than the art in issue #1. It’s action-y and consistent. I’m just afraid that “good enough” art sometimes isn’t good enough to save a book. My favorite part of the art in this issue was the car chase scene. It was good and exciting and you could almost feel the movement. I really liked how when talking about his skills as a driver, it flashed mid-scene to one of the Calvin and Hobbes-esque flashbacks to show Locke and Spencer in a wagon zipping and maneuvering around a tree. Jasen Smith’s color work is probably the best thing this book has going for it. It captures that dark and dirty film noir vibe the book is trying hard to achieve. The cool blues perfectly contrasting with bright neon colors, that add to the seedy feel of the scenes at The Red Rose.
Listen, I just want to say that I don’t like giving bad reviews. It’s not what I’m all about. Check my previous reviews. I don’t want to bag on something. I want to like everything. I want everything to be great and entertaining and amazing. And Spencer & Locke has bits of that sprinkled throughout. But it never comes together to make an even kind of okay thing. It’s a weird combination of trying too hard to be hard and laziness, I think. That’s the problem I have with this book. It’s got a solid premise and the heart is there. But it just never gets there. Spencer & Locke, in my opinion, is the perfect example of a comic book giving me blue balls.
Spencer & Locke #2