Reviews

Review – Spencer & Locke Vol. 2 (Action Lab)

Spencer & Locke Vol. 2 (Action Lab) trade paperback cover (detail) by Jorge Santiago Jr
Spencer & Locke 2 Vol. 2
Overall
10/10
10/10
  • Writing - 10/10
    10/10
  • Art - 10/10
    10/10
  • Overall - 10/10
    10/10
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Summary

Written: David Pepose
Art: Jorge Santiago Jr.
Colors: Jasen Smith
Lettering: Colin Bell
Covers: Jorge Santiago Jr., Maan House and Joe Mulvey
Publisher: Action Lab Comics
Rating: T+
Release Date: August 14, 2019

His partner’s imaginary… but the madness is all real! The critically acclaimed, five-time Ringo Award nominee returns in SPENCER & LOCKE 2, from writer David Pepose and artist Jorge Santiago, Jr.! Suspended by Internal Affairs, Detective Locke continues to grapple with the demons of his past alongside his trusty partner, his imaginary talking panther Spencer. But when Spencer and Locke face the murderous Roach Riley, a scarred soldier set on a mission of violence and terror, will their partnership become the latest casualty on Roach’s hit list?

 Spencer & Locke Vol. 2, the Set-Up

I’ve been racking my brain on how I should go about reviewing Spencer & Locke Vol. 2 from Action Lab Comics. How do you review something objectively, when you thoroughly enjoyed the work of art that you’re supposed to be reviewing? I think the best way is for you, the reader, and me, the reviewer, go into this review knowing nothing about it is objective, because this is my favorite comic book series of the year. So sit back. Enjoy. And let’s get into it!

The Review

Spencer & Locke Vol. 2 (Action Lab) cover by Jorge Santiago Jr
Spencer & Locke Vol. 2 (Action Lab) cover by Jorge Santiago Jr

The first page opens up with an old school comic strip-style art with modern dialogue. I was intrigued, I was curious. I thought I was in for a cute story. And then all hell breaks loose!

(For those of you who have never read one of my reviews, I don’t believe in spoiling anything. I want you to have the joy of reading these books for yourself) 

I never read any of David Pepose‘s work before now and that’s a mistake I must live with, but damn does he just go right at you with his story and style. The Calvin and Hobbes vibe is quickly interrupted by the horrific world that these characters live in. Imagine Gotham City, but instead of evil clowns and men dressed as bats, you see beloved wholesome characters murder in horrific fashion. Sounds amazing, right? Because it is!

Writing

Where do I start with the writing from David Pepose… It’s incredible. Each bit of dialogue and internal monologue perfectly encapsulates these characters, especially Locke. I could feel each character’s personality. Each one has a distinct voice and purpose in this world and you have to pay attention to them. When I first cracked open this book I had no idea what I was getting myself into. 

The story plays out like an old detective movie, showing our damaged heroes trying to keep straight in a world that has turned its back on them. That’s where we find Spencer & Locke. 

Our heroes must stop a killer on the loose. Such a simple concept. We’ve seen it a million times, but Pepose finds a way to make it feel unique. His voice and direction carries through the story. Locke has the inner monologue of a man struggling with his reality. Not the aspect of his imaginary friend and partner Spencer, but the reality of the world in front of him. Locke must confront the reality of the chaos that ensues and how that affects the people he wants desperately to protect.

For our main villain, Roach, his inner monologue is a complete perversion to Locke’s. He is trying to rationalize this world with a lack of chaos and how can he infuse the chaos he has into the people he wants to hurt.

These two counterparts reflect that of good ol’ Batman and the Joker; with most Batman comics we are led to feel that Batman is a hero doing good (I said most… not all), but in Spencer & Locke Pepose makes it clear that even though Locke is trying to do good, he is part of the problem. A part of the chaos. A contributing factor to the pain of those he loves.

Art 

If Pepose’s writing is Locke, then Jorge Santiago Jr. is Spencer with his art. I’ve mentioned this before, but the ability to blend this amazing art and make it feel like it’s still part of the comic-strip world is breathtaking. I don’t know how to fully describe it, but yeah, here we are. One reviewer. One comic book. And a lack of words to describe the art. That’s how you know it is true art. I wish I could give higher praise to Santiago. 

(Jorge, I’m a huge fan so sorry for gushing, but hope to chat with you at a con sometime!)

Santiago’s depictions of these characters heighten the writing from Pepose. I can’t imagine another artist attempting this book. They’re perfect together. The detail is seen in each character when they are contemplating an idea or rationalizing a feeling. You see the emotion in their faces. Very rarely can I look at a character in a comic book and know what they’re feeling by just looking at the art. Santiago’s ability to showcase true emotions in each drawing brought me in further into the world they created, and I never wanted to leave… well, I mean, it was a world full of psychos and murders doing crazy stuff so I’d probably leave, but he almost got me to want to live there. 

One of my favorite aspects of this book is that every panel feels like a shot from a movie. While I’m reading and looking at the art, I’m able to see it in motion. Each seems cut to showcase a part of the scene at hand. To bring you deeper into this world. To give subtle gestures to what each character has running through their mind. I’ve said this once and I’ll say it again: please let this become a Netflix series!

Colors + Letters

It’s hard to ignore what Jasen Smith, colors, and Colin Bell, letters, brought to the table with Spencer & Locke Vol. 2. For every panel that Santiago drew a masterpiece on, there is Jasen Smith giving the panel that classic noir feeling. The use and colors of shadows and lighting are incredible in this book. How I said each panel feels like a shot from a movie is really heightened here. There are some details in the colors I didn’t realize till writing this review.

For instance, when Spencer & Locke are talking with each other the colors are darker. A little more muted. But when Locke talks with the people he loves and opens up about his troubled life, there is a warm color to him that wasn’t there before. That little detail shows so much about the character Locke and shows how much care Smith put into each panel.

Same goes for Colin Bell. The choice of lettering between Locke and Roach alone shows a lot. When you see Locke’s inner monologue the lettering is handwriting. It’s not perfect. A little frantic. And looks like it was in a rush. When we go to Roach’s inner monologue it’s like typewriting. Concise. Perfect. Flawless. No emotion. This two choices give insight to each character as well, showing their mentality behind what they are doing. Locke is working out of emotion—the need to save the people he loves—while Roach is working through an elaborate plan, something written out ahead of time for him… that’s a tease to a spoiler, and that’s all you’ll get out of me!

Final Thoughts

Buy this damn book. It’s so good! I don’t know if that came across in my review, but I’m just flat out saying it here. This will be one of the best books you check out this year. Honestly, I think the trade paperback is the perfect way to read Spencer & Locke Vol. 2. It gives you that cinematic feel that I believe the creators were going for. With all that said, I’m giving it a perfect 10. Yep, a perfect 10, because I thoroughly loved and enjoyed every minute I spent reading this and I think you will too!

Sound Off

Have you read Spencer & Locke Vol. 2 yet? If not, what are you waiting for? I’ll buy you a copy! Probably won’t, because then I’ll have to buy everyone a copy… Go buy it and read it and let me know what you thought down in the comments below!


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About the author

Shane Miosi

Shane Miosi is a nerd through and through based out of good ole' Dallas, Texas. If he's not writing he's making videos and podcast just for the fun of it.

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