Hey, nerds! I must offer the full disclosure that I am friends with the writer of this comic book, David Pepose. Conflict of interest you say? Well, it’s my blog and I can do what I want, and I want to talk about Spencer & Locke.

While it may be true that I am particularly partial to David as a person and wanting him to succeed in this project, I am even more partial to opinions. As in having them. Also, David has been my review editor for many years, and I can’t pass up the opportunity to critically evaluate his very first comic book! Are you ready, David? Let’s go.

Spencer & Locke #1
Written by David Pepose
Art by Jorge Santiago, Jr.
Colors by Jasen Smith
Letters by Colin Bell
Published by Action Lab Entertainment

Some of the most profound wisdom of my childhood comes from Calvin & Hobbes. Calvin was hilarious as an irreverent, spit-fire of a kid and Hobbes was delightfully feline and a loyal foil that taught us about cynicism, optimism and getting the most out of our wagon. As a kid without the Internet, it was captivating fodder on a rainy Saturday afternoon.

Now imagine if Calvin’s brash spirit was met with anger, instability, and trauma. What if Hobbes was a fatalistic, one-eyed panther? Did you imagine it? Does it seem fucked up? Yeah.

Spencer & Locke #1 presents a superbly abysmal opening scene with distinct vestiges of child abuse, punctuated by the homicide of a childhood friend, Sophie. This launches our red-haired protagonist, Locke, and his brilliant blue, Panther side-kick Spencer into motion. The violent opening hand is almost too heavy, and cliche seems imminent. But writer David Pepose is too smart for that.

Cut to a diner booth, where a fully lit room and a confused waitress witness a police procedural discussion with a stuffed panther over a juice box. Locke is batshit crazy. Not in the cute, existential Calvin kind of way, but in the glycerin-fueled, Tyler Durden kind of way.

In the first issue, it already seems that there is no topic off-limits to Pepose. Yet the campy, blunt-force noir of Spencer & Locke and an adult with an imaginary friend nicely subverts that weight with sharp and well-timed humor that might cause you to spit out your coffee. In addition to the laughs, we are introduced to a slight ray of hope in the slain Sophie’s daughter, Hero.

Following the murder of Sophie, Locke and Spencer visit the family to notify them of the death. When Locke meets Hero, he hands her Spencer, his “real live Panther” he tells her, for comfort. For a moment, you see that Locke, despite his homicidal snowman delusions, is still that little boy trying to cope by moving through his adult space as a high-functioning delusional detective. Now, this detective’s primary goal is to find Sophie’s killer, driven by his delusions and a bone-crunching, Daredevil tenacity.

For this freshman creative team, Spencer & Locke #1 is a heavy-inked, noir vision that embodies the muddiness of the characters’ souls, from Locke to Principal Scabtree to sadistic Stanley. Artist Jorge Santiago, Jr. creates a memorable identity not only for our leading gentlemen but for the parade of supporting characters. Santiago breathes a hard life into their present, and a provides undeniable homage to Bill Watterson in flashes to the past. It is equal parts disturbing and delightful.

Jasen Smith’s dense colors seem appropriate by successfully conveying the gravity of the dire circumstances, but the limited palette and heavy saturation lack an aesthetic nuance to match the depth of content and character, sometimes falling flat. Still, the art works well collectively, and I do enjoy the special shade of blue that is Spencer.

Striking a distinct balance of depravity and hilarity, Spencer & Locke #1 is a well-crafted, subversive slice of the sequential world. It is nostalgic and funny, gritty and absurd, and you’ll want your own plush panther by your side.

Grab Spencer & Locke #1 from your LCS, and ask them to order Spencer & Locke #2 (MAR171205). Deadline to order is Monday, May 8. I suggest you hurry then.

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