Having only previously read one issue of Jim Alexander’s GoodCopBadCop, I was excited to get my hands on a copy of the upcoming ‘Casebook #1’ collected edition from Rough Cut Comics, featuring all of the previously released issues of the title, as well as a few tasty extras.
The book provides a somewhat unique (and totally inspired) take on the classic ‘good cop, bad cop’ routine by slapping both sides of the coin onto the same character. Brian Fisher is, for all intents and purposes, a fairly regular Glasgow City Detective, wading his way through the cesspool of criminality and – in equal amounts – banality, all the while trying (and failing) to keep his inner demon under control. This isn’t a title that focuses on the twists and turns of the cases being solved, nor on the criminals themselves, but rather on Fisher’s interactions with them, and his ongoing struggle against his inner ‘dark side’.
The five individual issues contained here are broken up by some interesting “Case Files” submitted by Fisher himself, chronicling his inner thoughts as he deals with a relatively mundane ongoing case. These provide a far deeper look into the mindset of the main character and how he views his surroundings than the issues themselves (particularly due to the fact that he continues writing the reports after he ‘switches’), and add a tremendous amount of flavour to the ongoing narrative.
Storyline-wise, the five issues aren’t particularly linked, other than a broad overview and – obviously – the same primary character, but it’s truly interesting to see how each individual artist has put their own unique slant on the character. All accomplished artists in their own right, each one brings something fresh and exciting to the table, all anchored masterfully by Alexander’s measured writing and gift for realistic dialogue.
The first three issues are illustrated by Unthank Comics’ Garry Mac [Gonzo Cosmic, Black Leaf], and provide perhaps the most visual and visceral depiction of Brian Fisher’s “bad cop” routine. Garry’s crisp linework and flair for the dramatic really shines here when the relatively nondescript Fisher switches into a snarling, drooling psychopath. These initial issues vary slightly in tone, length and quality, but do a solid job of introducing us to what is an undeniably captivating protagonist, while managing to perfectly capture the sheer ‘Glasgowness’ (that’s a word, right?) of the book’s setting.
The one thing I will say though is that, as sharp as Garry’s artwork is, I would absolutely love to see a little colour added to the proceedings. Shading is kept to a bare minimum here, giving the pages a somewhat ‘empty’ feel, and – particularly having seen how much his art comes to life with colour in the pages of his recent release, Gonzo Cosmic – I’d love to see a full-colour version of these early issues somewhere down the line .
The next issue is illustrated by Will Pickering [Savant, Burke & Hare], and builds on Garry’s strong start with some crisp lines of his own. While their styles are comparable – to a point, at least – Will’s lines are a little smoother than Garry’s, and his depiction of Fisher’s “change” is a far more subtle than in the previous issues. While both styles work in their own regard, I found the subtle approach far more chilling than the all-out monster style. Small changes in the character’s face and eyes show his descent into “badness”, shifting the story into more of a thriller than a horror – a welcome change, in my opinion.
The final issue, illustrated by Luke Cooper [Wolf Country, Hollow Girl] serves as a pronounced departure from the previous issues, aesthetically at least, with Cooper’s heavily shaded, almost minimalistic style adding a far more menacing tone to the proceedings. Like Pickering, his take on the ‘change’ is more of a psychological than a physical one, which I personally find far more unsettling. The story in the final issue is also possibly the strongest of the five, with Alexander clearly having a firm grasp on his character by this point. He also leaves a solid hook at the end to make us keen to read more.
Throughout all five issues however, Alexander’s writing maintains its usual high standard. The dialogue is spot-on, with the aforementioned knack for believable exchanges that stay completely true to their Glasgow roots. A couple of the earlier stories could be considered almost ‘throwaway’, but once things get going and he starts to dig a little deeper into the character, things pick up in a major way and the writing definitely drags you in and holds your attention with this despicably intriguing character.
And, perhaps the most exciting part of this book – for me, at least – is the fact that it is being sold as ‘Casebook #1’. Meaning that this unlikely to be the last we see of Detective Brian Fisher.
While it may not quite hit the heights of some of Planet Jimbot’s previous work (Savant, Gabriel), this is still an engaging read with a creative premise that serves as further testament (if it were needed) to the sheer versatility of Jim Alexander’s writing. Boasting impressive work from three unique and creative artists, this volume is well worth the cover price, if only to see each man’s individual take on the source material. And I’m personally keen to see more GoodCopBadCop in the future, and to find out just how far Brian Fisher is willing to let himself go.
GoodCopBadCop Casebook#1 retails for £7.99. Rough Cut will be launching the book at Plan B in Glasgow Fri 24th Jan and Asylum in Aberdeen Sat 25th Jan. The trade will be available in all good comic shops thereafter. It will also be made available through Amazon and the Rough Cut Comics shop.
The writer of this piece was: Craig Neilson (aka Ceej)
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