‘Spencer & Locke #4:’ Advance Comic Book Review

What goes around keeps on going ‘round and ‘round and…

How many kids say, “I’m not going to be like my parents?"  And yet, there are some things that we can’t help ourselves at passing on.  With my son, I can hear myself quoting my mother in tone and with the funny little sayings that she had, just knowing that it feels right.  I hope to pass on all the love that I had growing up, but I know that there are folks who pass on something completely different.  My family believes in a crack on the mouth or bottom when kids misbehave, but that’s not something that I want to pass on.  I know how angry and frustrated that it made me, and seeing violence as an answer is an easy path to applying that solution yourself.  That’s the scenario that lies at the heart of the finale of Spencer & Locke - the son coming back to break the cycle - and we get to see the birth of a friend who keeps the negative locked up, shielding the person inside from the terrible things that want to be out.  A second persona who will distance our psyche from the beast within, the beast that helps us survive.

The culmination of David Pepose’s sideways look at the projection of a Calvin and Hobbes world is packed with just as many great action scenes, revelations, and mind-expanding moments in every issue thus far.  What’s really fun is that we finally see that we’ve been dealing with a bit of an unreliable narrator all along, and that the levels of depth that we had already considered were still hiding more bits below.  From every aspect, this story just sings; it certainly ain’t no choir of angels, but the rafters will shake.  While everything is grandiose and outsized, the truth in the heart of it is allowed to shine through the exaggeration and be beautifully highlighted by the absurdity around it.  The whole series is a carney barker, bringing us to the moments of clarity within the whirlwind and laying bare some of the more taboo notions about mental health.  Our minds want to protect us, and when we don’t let them, they sometimes take matters into their own hands.  This is an example of spectacle being used to bring out truth, and I applaud its ambition and success.

Jorge Santiago Jr. has a gorgeous touch bringing this mind-bender to life.  Much as I stated about the story in the paragraph above, it’s the singular moments of calm that breathe something majestic into the madness.  I know which panel I would use to distill this whole issue, and it’s amazing just how effective it is.  The composition combined with a Mona Lisa smile on the character’s beatific expression makes for a chilling moment that drives home the feeling of the whole series.  A complicated mishmash of feelings from all over the spectrum, all leaving you emotionally confused enough to find a place beyond it.  Add to that the genius work he’s done to replicate the source’s style and hijack it, and you have the right artist with the right tools to set this book apart from anything else out there.

This book is one that will speak to everyone who picks it up.  The combination of action and in-depth moral implications is a fun way to elevate a hard-boiled shoot-em-up story, and the addition of the tribute to Bill Waterson’s enduring work just makes it something that’s accessible to so many while not diluting the essence of the tale they wanted to tell.  Pick up the series, or jump on to grab the trade releasing in August.  It’s a book like no other and one that you don’t want to miss.


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