Writer: Scott Beatty
Artists: Butch Guice (p), Mike Perkins (i)
The bad news is that this is not a very reader-friendly introductory issue if you’ve never experienced the series before. The recap on the inside front cover refers to events from a couple of issues ago, with no relevance to the current plotline (this is part two of a two-part story), although it may well be appropriate to an upcoming storyline it just feels out of place as regards this issue. Far better to have stepped out of the conceit of being a newspaper story and given us an honest-to-gosh recap of last issue, as quite a bit went on that could’ve done with a summary.
So here we go: the small fishing village of Baleen appears to be cursed – over the years, numerous ships have gone down in the region, no site or sign of them is ever seen. The villagers, a close-knit bunch, speak of a curse, as if it was nothing to do with them (although you know that a number of them are in on it). Simon Archard, detective extraordinaire, is determined to crack the puzzle; he sends his assistant Emma, disguised as Sister Serenity (a druidic nun, effectively) to the local church, whilst he goes undercover as Obed – a villager recently released from prison after seven years.
His disguise is flawless, although his actions arose suspicions throughout the start of this issue, as he just doesn’t seem like the Obed of old – frankly I would’ve expected Simon to put on a more convincing performance, being the master detective he is – and the situation becomes complicated as the real Obed makes his way back to the village (Simon was maybe a couple of days ahead of him). Of course, Simon doesn’t tell any of this to Emma, so although she’s worked out Simon is disguised as Obed when the real Obed turns up she thinks it’s still Simon in disguise…actually she’s rather stupid, because she’d’ve known at least a little about this Obed, and when the guy knows nothing about Simon she should really have put two-and-two together straightaway.
We can forgive this lapse though, as she comes through on Simon’s rather cryptic instructions marvellously “toll the bell, Emma”, and although the final denouement is a little pedestrian (why did the ships keep on sinking when they were following the harbour lights – the bad guys just towed a special beacon out in the water and turned the lighthouse off) Simon’s creative use of said beacon staves off disaster.
By far the best touches in this comic are the dialogue and the art – although the plot is somewhat straightforward and been-there, done-that, very Famous-Five-esque, almost the entire issue is rendered in effective darkness – by which I mean the whole story is set at night, yet the art is clear and moody lighting sets the various scenes excellently. Beatty has picked up the dialogue baton from Waid extremely well, a few deft touches show he is beginning to get comfortable on this book. Let’s hope for more originality in the plot department next time, and Beatty will be welcome to stay on this title for a long time.
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