Ceej Says… GoodCopBadCop: Casebook 2 review [Thought Bubble 2014]

Click to enlarge.

Click to enlarge.

Publisher: Rough Cut Comics
Writer: Jim Alexander
Artist(s): Luke Cooper, Will Pickering
Lettering: Jim Campbell
Cover Art: Joel Carpenter
Release Date: 15th November 2014 (Thought Bubble)

One of the most anticipated releases of this year’s Thought Bubble Festival – for me, at least – is definitely going to be the follow-up to the 2014 True Believer Best British Comic-Book Award-winning GoodCopBadCop.   Continuing its unique slant on the ‘good cop/bad cop’ routine, we once again find ourselves dipping into the world of Detective Inspector Brian Fisher, a Glasgow policeman who finds himself switching back and forth between two distinctive sides of his own personality – often with terrifyingly brutal results. This volume contains two chapters – a longer story illustrated by Luke Cooper, and a shorter tale featuring artwork by Will Pickering.  Both are written by Planet Jimbot maestro Jim Alexander, as are the prose-style ‘Case Files’ which serve as an interval between the chapters.

The first story, ‘Tiny Facts of Kindness’ sees Fisher investigating what seems to be, on first inspection, a fairly run-of-the-mill supermarket robbery, only to find himself pulled deeper and deeper into a depraved world of crime and twisted violence.  Once again, Luke Cooper’s ultra-stylised artwork does a perfect job in recreating the gritty, shadow-filled streets of Glasgow.  Yes, there’s a sterility and a rigidness to his style that may not appeal to everyone, but in terms of conveying the detail and expressiveness of the characters themselves – Fisher in particular – he does his usual impressive job here.  Cooper also finds time to incorporate several neat little visual touches along the way; the sneer on Father Connor’s face during his sermon, the lighting on Fisher’s pillow as he lays in the hospital bed – and all of these help to add an extra layer of depth to the story. Also, for what it’s worth, I still can’t get enough of the subtle way he illustrates Fischer’s ‘change’, leaving us in no doubt at all about which ‘cop’ is in the driver’s seat at any given time.

The increased page count for this particular tale helps immeasurably in the telling of Alexander’s story.  We’re not sprinting towards a conclusion this time, but rather taking our time and letting Jim’s twisting, turning storyline unfold at its own pace.  This isn’t just “hey, check out this split-personality nutter” – which is possibly a slight oversimplification of the previous, award-winning, Casebook – but is instead a far more well-rounded story complete with a beginning, a middle and an end.   Once again, dialogue continues to be Alexander’s primary calling card, and his slick, realistic Glasgow ‘banter’ gives this title its unique selling point and appeal.

To go into details of the story would be to diminish the effect of actually reading it for yourself, so I’ll gloss over the specifics, but suffice to say that we get to see Fisher at both his best and worst here, watch him go face to face with a legitimately unnerving threat, and learn without a shadow of a doubt that yes, own brand baked beans can be just as good as the leading ones.  Yeah, you heard me.

As with the previous volume, the stories are broken up by some creatively-written excerpts from Fisher’s Glasgow Police ‘Case Files’.  Showcasing Alexander’s impressive prose skills, these delve a little deeper into the psyche of our main character, particularly as each regular case file is contrasted by a counterpart written during his ‘change’, giving us a chilling insight into just what’s going on in the head of the titular ‘Bad Cop’.  Humorous and sickening in equal measure, these unique additions provide some extra flavour to this utterly compelling lead character.

The second story, ‘Twisting the Knife’, sees Will Pickering take over on art duties for a tale written from the perspective of Fisher’s (understandably) concerned partner, DS Julie Spencer.  Taking the form of a meeting between Spencer and the Chief Superintendent to discuss her growing list of complaints and concerns about her partner’s mental state, the somewhat stark conversational style of the story fits in well with Pickering’s rigidly detailed style.  Once again Alexander’s dialogue flows smoothly and naturally, giving us a deeper insight into Spencer, a character who had only briefly been touched on in the previous stories.

Fischer does make an appearance though, in the form of a flashback to Spencer’s recollection of his most recent example of ‘disturbing behaviour’.  While I still prefer Cooper’s depiction of the ‘bad cop’ overall, I will say that Pickering’s leering, sneering version of Fischer works impressively alongside Alexander’s writing to make his alter ego seem far more menacing – demonic, almost – than Cooper’s dark-eyed, hammer-swinging nutter.  The story works well to develop both Spencer and Fischer, and ends on a delicious final panel that puts the whole chapter into a brand new perspective.  Possibly not quite as impressive as the first story, but every bit as enjoyable in its own way.

Personally speaking, I firmly believe that this second GoodCopBadCop Casebook has improved upon its predecessor in almost every conceivable way.  Which, when you’re talking about a book which won the ‘Best British Comic-Book’ Award just a few short months ago, should tell you all you need to know about whether this one is worth picking up.  Luke Cooper continues to rise up my ‘favourite artists’ list pretty much every time I see his work, and Alexander continues to add layer upon layer of subtle character development to this already compelling protagonist.  If you’re at Thought Bubble next month and you don’t pick this one up (along with the first volume, assuming you haven’t already got it), then you’re definitely missing out.  Gritty, violent, humorous and witty in equal measures, GoodCopBadCop is an absolute must-buy.

The writer of this piece was: 576682_510764502303144_947146289_nCraig Neilson (aka Ceej)
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