Spencer & Locke may have the best elevator pitch for any story ever; “What if Calvin & Hobbes grew up in Sin City?” That alone offers immense intrigue and questions that could easily garner a following, especially in the indie comics scene. And indeed the best way to describe this emerging series is as a combination of the aforementioned properties. But, is a really cool premise all Spencer & Locke needs? Or does this comic offer something deeper?
The story focuses on Locke, and his imaginary friend/stuffed panther, Spencer. Locke did not exactly have a happy childhood, but has now grown up to become a detective along with Spencer. Only Locke can see and hear Spencer move, but the danger they face is real. Series writer, David Pepose, does two things exceptionally well in this comic. The first is creating intrigue in the story, and world. The hook of the story certainly grabs the reader’s attention, but the opening mystery keeps the audience invested. Each page either builds more of this world, or pushes the mystery forward. The second is that Pepose creates an uncomfortable, unsettling mood for this comic. Literally the first page sets the tone, and it goes down further and further into this grim, gritty world.
Jorge Santiago is the series artist along with Jasen Smith as the colorist. Santiago and Smith bring life to the “Calvin & Hobbes meets Sin City” concept aesthetically. Spencer & Locke has two visual tones: the present is the gritty crime noir setting, while the past is a near perfect homage to the original Calvin and Hobbes comic strips. There are times that Santiago’s art with Smith’s colors really look like Bill Watterson’s famous illustrations. The scenes in the present (which is where most of the issue takes place) are not quite Frank Miller’s artwork, but they have their own dark, look with muted colors and heavy shadows. The juxtaposing art styles create a unique clash of context that contributes to the tone.
It is safe to say that there is nothing really like Spencer & Locke out there. The creative hook is enough for readers to take a look, but this comic offers so much more. The characters are complex an interesting, the tone is disturbing and wholly unique, and the final page will have the audience wanting to know more. This book is an absolute must buy, for the unique premise is just the tip of this fascinating ice berg of a story.
Spencer & Locke is currently being published by Action Labs comics.