Advance Review: Spencer & Locke 2 #1 Gets Bigger & Bolder With Roach Riley

by James Ferguson

Detective Locke has had a rough go of it lately. He’s currently suspended from the force and being investigated by Internal Affairs. When a new case comes in and he’s personally requested, he’s thrown back onto the beat. Locke will need more than his wits to get through this and his imaginary friend from childhood, a panther named Spencer, will help, but it might not be enough to stop the menacing Roach Riley.

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see the parallels between Spencer & Locke and Calvin & Hobbes. In this sequel series, Roach Riley is introduced as a parody / homage to Beetle Bailey. I probably shouldn’t use the word “parody” as there is nothing funny about Roach or his actions. This comic takes these character archetypes and brings them into the real world and an adult mindset. It goes to show you how the antics and hijinks of the Sunday morning funnies can really mess with someone’s head.

Spencer & Locke doesn’t shy away from the fact that it’s spoofing these classic characters. There are a few panels that are drawn in the newspaper comic strip style from artist Jorge Santiago Jr showing a far more innocent time in their lives. These pop up to show how deep some of those old strips can get and how adults can still read a lot into them years later. There’s a great fight scene towards the end where the violence of the real world is contrasted with the imaginary adventures of the comic strip in a pitch perfect manner.

This change in style creates an incredible juxtaposition between the simple lives of the characters in their youth and the complicated, hard-nosed lives they lead now that they’re grown up. There’s also a sliver of innocence in there, even with Roach, harkening back to those times in the comic strips.

The modern day scenes have a gritty quality, reminiscent of classic noir tales. Colorist Jasen Smith makes it abundantly clear that we’re not in the newspaper anymore. Reality is dark and unforgiving. Batman would be at home in this city.

Roach is most definitely suffering from PTSD. The things he saw in the war have warped his mind to the point where he’s reveling in the carnage and bloodshed he’s leaving behind. He is a force of violence and serves as a great opponent for Locke. Both men have experience trauma in their lives, but it’s what they did after that separates them.

Letterer Colin Bell works to differentiate the two characters even more with their internal narrations. Roach’s is shown in dark caption boxes, neatly typed in white lettering. Meanwhile, Locke’s looks like it was handwritten in a lined legal pad. You get a sense of their personality and how they see the world in these details. Roach’s perspective is literally black and white, while Locke’s is more nuanced.

Spencer & Locke already made waves with its original series. That could have been enough for some, but not for writer David Pepose. These characters are back with a bigger, bolder story that will leave your jaw on the floor. It deftly handles some controversial topics through the lens of character archetypes we know and love. Plus, it does so in a way that’s friendly to new readers, so anyone can jump into this series and enjoy. In short, don’t miss this book.

Spencer & Locke 2 #1 from Action Lab: Danger Zone is scheduled for release on April 24th, 2019.

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