Sunday, 15 March 2015

Copperhead, Volume 1: A New Sheriff in Town Review (Jay Faerber, Scott Godlewski)


Occasionally - not often - a blurb will work on me and Brian K Vaughan saying Copperhead is his favourite new comic and one of the best debuts in years made me pick this one up. And right away I understood why Vaughan would say that: this feels like something a younger him would write! 

The opening scene is a train magnetically streaking through an alien desert landscape. Clara Bronson, our heroine and a single mother, is in the largely deserted carriage, her young son sleeping on the seat opposite. He’s sick after all the travelling, and she’s just focused on getting to Copperhead, the mining town where she’s about to start her new job. 

Some guy starts hitting on her, sits himself down next to her even though she asks him politely to go away and he puts the moves on her. Then another man appears, gallantly standing up for her and gets into it with the sleazy dude even though she’s asking them both to go away, her son’s trying to sleep. Cut to the train station where the train doors open, both guys hit the ground unconscious and Clara and her son step out. Yup - that’s a Brian K Vaughan scene and Clara seems exactly the kind of tough feminist character he’d write! 

But it’s not a Vaughan comic, it’s writer Jay Faerber and artist Scott Godlewski’s, and Copperhead is a fairly interesting blend of western, sci-fi and police procedural. Set in the future, humanity has mastered space travel and won a war against some aliens with the help of artificial humans - “arties” - and everyone’s learned to live alongside one another with the humans at the top of the food chain (of course). 

Clara’s the new sheriff in town who has to deal with a surly deputy, a drunk town doctor, a corrupt mine owner, a family of violent alien hillbillies, a rogue artie, and the untamed monsters that live on the outskirts of their town. There’s something about the name “Bronson” that seems to attract trouble, and Clara’s got to diffuse a tense situation between the locals, solve a murder mystery, and find her son all before she’s had a chance to unpack! 

The setup itself isn’t particularly original. Besides feeling like it’s written in Vaughan’s style, it’s your standard western with your usual sci-fi elements thrown in - it basically feels like Deadwood crossed with Star Wars. Clara could be any tough female lead, as is her headstrong son Zeke, while Deputy Budroxinfinicus (aka Boo) is essentially Batman if he were a giant talking hamster, and Ishmael, the artie loner, is 2000AD’s Rogue Trooper. 

Besides playing spot the reference, the whole police procedural genre isn’t my thing so I wasn’t too engaged with the comic just from the approach. That and the story of the stolen alien chotchkie didn’t really grab me - it felt like a very slight case for an opening book but I liked the unexpected addition to the cast at the end. 

Art-wise, if Faerber’s writing is similar to Vaughan’s, Godlewski’s art is much like Sean Gordon Murphy’s (Punk Rock Jesus, The Wake), so it looks pretty good. Hey, there are worse artists this team could’ve created their comic in the style of than these two! 

It’s tough getting the balance of introducing a world and its characters while telling a story at the same time in a first volume and Faerber/Godlewski do a decent job of that here. It’s a shame the entire book isn’t as good as that opening scene but it’s not a bad comic either. I also wouldn’t agree that it’s the best debut in years and it’s a long way from being my favourite new comic. The series might pick up in the next book or two but for now Copperhead is just an ok title that has its moments.

Copperhead, Volume 1: A New Sheriff in Town

No comments:

Post a Comment