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PopCultHQ Comic Book Review: SPENCER & LOCKE #1 from Action Lab: Danger Zone

PopCultHQ received a review copy of SPENCER & LOCKE #1 from Action Lab: Danger Zone. Hitting retailers on New Comic Book Day, Wednesday, April 12th, the creative team for this series features writing from David Pepose, art by Jorge Santiago, Jr., colors from Jasen Smith, and lettering by Colin Bell.

Here’s PopCultHQ’s spoiler-free review of the first issue of…

 

Spencer & Locke #1 – Cover A by Jorge Santiago, Jr.
Spencer & Locke #1 – Cover C by Joe Mulvey
Spencer & Locke #1 – Cover B by Maan House

SPENCER & LOCKE #1

Writer:
David Pepose

Art:
Jorge Santiago, Jr.


Colors:
Jasen Smith

Letters:
Colin Bell

Covers:
Jorge Santiago, Jr. (Item Code: FEB171047),
Maan House (Item Code: FEB171048),
Joe Mulvey (Item Code: FEB171049)

When his grade-school sweetheart is found dead, there’s only one friend Detective Locke can trust to help solve her murder — his childhood imaginary panther, Spencer. But when they face a vicious crime syndicate and memories from Locke’s traumatic youth, can this unlikely pair survive long enough to find the truth?

PopCultHQ’s Comic Book Review:
SPENCER & LOCKE #1
You Can’t Go Home Again

Every good cop needs a strong partner; one whom you can rely on, that has your back, but also keep you humble and in line when you need to be put in check. That’s what Detective Locke has with his partner Spencer, a talking panther. Wait, what? Yup, but this is no ordinary talking panther you’d expect to find…Spencer is imaginary.

SPENCER & LOCKE has a few layers which make the series as a whole quite enticing. A cop seeking answers in a murder, the deceased’s prior relationship with the detective, the flashbacks establishing background on the characters, and the unusual partner on the force assisting him, albeit subconsciously. The Calvin & Hobbes homage is a great accompaniment in showing Locke as a mischievous kid and to show the nature of he and his imaginary friend’s relationship. So not only are you getting to follow along with the lead as he attempts to solve a homicide that strikes close to home, we’ve begun to see the psychological component of the story and why a grown man still goes through life with an imaginary friend. Hopefully this unfolds more in future issues as it could make for some great storytelling and visuals.

There’s also an impeccable grittiness that gives the story an almost procedural cop/detective television series feel, like NYPD Blue or Law and Order, without the legal component. And I patiently await the issue where we may see what exactly happened to Spencer’s eye for it to have been replaced with a button.

Writing:

Writer David Pepose has a brilliant concept with SPENCER & LOCKE and it delivers more than you would expect. The delivery of his classic noir, crime-drama story is well-paced, it’s cleverly written and thought out, and honestly is a prime example of a multifaceted title with tremendous potential in its growth and widespread appeal. The way this first issue projects itself, it is obvious that David is deeply invested into the title. And yeah, I know every creator should be, but I mean it in a different way. He’s invested in the sense that he has put a great deal of thought into every aspect of this title. For a four-issue miniseries, Pepose sees to it that he gets as much of his story and this world out, and in the premiere issue he fills it without overloading you. SPENCER & LOCKE #1 hits you with a strong, enjoyable premise, insightful backstories, and after reading you can’t help but think, “This is why comic books can be such an awesome medium!”

In establishing a wonderful buddy cop dynamic between the detective and his panther pal, Pepose gets you to love these characters despite the fact that one isn’t real. David has shown Locke’s bullied childhood, the often rough periods of his youth, and dashes of appropriately timed humor and some mild snarkiness. Though slated as a four-issue miniseries, what Pepose has created will definitely gain the appeal of fans who will inevitably want more SPENCER & LOCKE. The line starts behind me, everybody.

Art: 

Jorge Santiago, Jr. puts on a spectacular display of his talent and range in this premiere issue. From capturing the dark and mysterious crime-adventure feel of the narrative, to his depiction of the titular characters during childhood resembling that of Calvin & Hobbes, Santiago’s inimitable illustrations in SPENCER & LOCKE #1 are remarkable. The sharp, clean-cut, almost chiseled features to Detective Locke is a great look for the main character. I also appreciate the moments where the characters and scenes aren’t as prominently featured. Due to the angle or shot, Santiago offers these panels to inks and (especially) colors so that they may take center stage. That’s a sign of a true professional considering others on the creative team while illustrating. Impressive!

Colors: 

What I truly hope gets recognized by readers and reviewers alike is how much colorist Jasen Smith adds to SPENCER & LOCKE. The highlights and shading used by Smith throughout the book not only compliment Santiago’s drawings, but define them. In a lot of comics, shading and dark surroundings are generally left for inks to tackle (which certainly make sense). What you’ll find in this series is the colors providing depth, dimension, and quite often establishing the mood of the scenes. In many cases, these additions or inclusions get overlooked, unless you’re specifically seeking them out. They are very subtle in nature, lightly done, or become absorbed in the artwork (the finely-highlighted trim on Locke’s jacket collar, the muted amber glow from a lamp, the slight darkening of tones to add shading). I’ve always believed that individuals are either blessed with talent or they learn and become talented. Smith is certainly the former and shows his gifting on each page. Jasen is a prime example of a colorist who “gets it.”

Lettering: 

One aspect of SPENCER & LOCKE that adds some nice flair is how Locke’s internal dialogue was lettered. Colin Bell didn’t go the typical route of standard caption boxes for the narration, rather he opted for a look of writing scrawled on a yellow notepad as its backdrop. Not only did this bold choice present well, it also gave Locke’s dialogue a feel of an old Whodunit? detective on the case voice-over. It’s a pretty sweet way to help add to the tone of Pepose’s story. It’s not something you’ll generally find from letterers (granted, many titles don’t afford that luxury to their letterer), but Bell nailed it in issue one with his work. Definitely made an impression on me.

PopCultHQ’s overall assessment:

With SPENCER & LOCKE #1, no matter what price you wind up paying when purchasing online or at a retailer, you are assured great value for your investment. A comic that’ll make you say, “Damn, that was good!” after reading. You’re getting a uniquely-fun concept that feels like there’s a few stories, or sub-stories, being played out. There’s action, suspense, busting in doors, a fight scene, some awkward moments (intentional), a few laughs, and there’s even a gentler moment where the tone shifts and shows another layer to Locke. The art pairs nicely with the script and is quite the visual display.

My recommendation for when you pick up a copy of SPENCER & LOCKE #1 is that you take the time to look at how each of these creators contribute to the overall product. Sure many will critique the storytelling, as well as judge the art as a whole. But what you’ll find is that this series would likely not be as good as it is had each person involved not been on the same page, creatively and as a team. From terrific storytelling that is elevated by the artwork, to colors that add another dimension to the illustrations, to lettering that can trigger any classic detective film’s narration in your head, it’s a sight to behold when four creative minds can collaborate so well on a debut issue. I will be purchasing print copies of this entire series. Definitely goes into the collection.


PopCultHQ’s Rating:

5 out of 5 Stars

SPENCER & LOCKE #1 can be pre-ordered NOW on ComiXology
and available at your local comic shop and online retailers on Wednesday, April 12th!

Want to pre-order the second issue of SPENCER & LOCKE but don’t know how?
Just show this graphic to your local comics shop, or give them a call with the pre-order code MAR171205 (or MAR171206 for the alternate cover) and they’ll save you a copy!


Be sure to follow the creative team!

SPENCER & LOCKE Online:

 

 

 

 

 

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Writer – David Pepose


 

 

 

 


Artist – Jorge Santiago, Jr.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Colorist – Jasen Smith

 

 

 

 

 


Letterer – Colin Bell

 

 

 

 

 

 

Publisher – Action Lab: Danger Zone

 

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Jason Bennett
Jason Bennett is PopCultHQ's senior editor, a contributing writer, and comic book reviewer/reporter. He is a big lover of coffee, cats, cooking and comics (plus all things Green Lantern). He is a strong supporter of indie comics, creators, and publishers and Chris Hardwick is his spirit animal (we don't know how to respond to that). Follow Jason on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram: @TahoeJBennett
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