‘Spencer & Locke #3:’ Comic Book Review

“Hey, folks! Take my advice: Pull down your pants and slide on the ice.”

If you're not familiar with that little quote, it's said twice by the character Dr. Sydney Freeman from the M*A*S*H* television series.  He was a psychiatrist dealing with the mental health of soldiers and doctors in the Korean War.  Those episodes were brilliant at bringing the real trauma of the mind into focus, which not a lot of modern entertainment will do.  Basically, the thought behind the quote is that you need to let it all go once in a while (You can admit it if you're singing right now, and I'll admit that I'm gonna judge you for it.), or the tiny weights of every little piece of your life will bury you.  How great was Good Will Hunting, right?  The whole thing's about the dual fragility and resiliency of the mind, and how it shapes your worldview and life. But, are people more apt to quote "How do you like them apples?" or "It's not your fault." (For the record, that line of dialogue is quite simply the foundation of not only the greatest scene in the history of film, but one of the most human moments ever created by an actor.  Damn it, Mr. Williams. I miss you.)  We have an incredible stigma surrounding mental health in this country, and it prevents us from seeing someone with illness or trauma as being "really" sick. The truth is that although we can be very resilient, there are times when the strain can be overwhelming. In this noirish fantasy, the strain explodes in a hyper-violent and not-well-adjusted way.

I loved Wreck It, Ralph, and one of my favorite gags was when they described Jane Lynch's Calhoun as having the most devastatingly written backstory ever.  Well, David Pepose has one-upped it considerably.  In the last issue we found out that Locke had been sexually abused as a youth, and this issue...well damn.  I won't give anything away, but the type of damage done to this kid makes his flights of fancy less a kid's wonderland of imagination and more an escape from a hellish mindscape that would put Wade Wilson to shame.  If there was ever a time when you thought "What could make a kid grow up and never get rid of his imaginary friend?" then this will just about do it.  Not only does it make sense, but the violence enacted by Locke in the state he finds himself in becomes understandable, too.  Not right, mind you, but there's an incredible amount of empathy that is triggered by the pacing and tone of this tragic character.

The art team once more does a fantastic job with melding the dark detective story with the often light and colorful source material.  It's a fine balancing act, and Jorge Santiago Jr. makes the tale truly come alive.  There's a full-page panel near the explosive end that is haunting and beautiful in its simplicity, and though it's the stock sort of angle, composition, and framing that earmark an image of its type, there's a true depth behind it that elevates it beyond stereotype into something magnificent.  This is a gorgeous work, and you'd be silly to miss out on it.  Oh, and the action is not only pulse-pounding, but his use of found weaponry is chilling and inventive.

I'm such a huge fan of this series. I don't really know how it's going to turn out in the next issue, and that gives me the kind of feeling that got me into comics in the first place.  The rules are different in this world, but the humanity is the fundamental truth.  There's brilliance in the pages, and in each of us.

P.S.  I'm not sure if I mentioned in previous reviews (What, go look it up?  But that's so haaaard.....), but the fact that "Hobbes" and "Locke" were competing philosophers of their time and that this is the level of wordplay at work here rocks my socks pretty hard.

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