You’re obviously already reading this book (right?) so I won’t bore you to death with a recap of Jay Faerber’s incredibly satisfying space western. What I will do is tell you that issue #7, like every issue before it, is a thing of beauty, both in the way that Faerber lays the groundwork for some serious future conflict and in the way that Godlewski and Riley bring the story to artistic life.
The main reason “Copperhead” works so well has to do with its character-driven focus. Yes, there are aliens and flying cars and all kinds of other obligatory science fiction staples – including artificial people – but all of that is just icing on the police drama layer cake.
Take away all of the fantastic elements and you’re still left with some nicely complicated relationships and imperfect people trying to make sense of the world that they live in…er, on. There aren’t any clearly defined “good” guys or “bad” guys in the comic really, just people – some decent people, some less so, but these people make decisions that only seem to make sense when viewed in retrospect sometimes.
At the conclusion of the first arc, Sheriff Bronson finally looked like she was making some progress in gaining the respect of at least a few of the townsfolk while simultaneously rubbing Copperhead’s real criminal element the wrong way. She’d found some unlikely allies in Ishmael and the Sewell matriarch. Deputy Budroxifinicus even seemed to be finally warming up to her, as much as a professional relationship between a strong-willed sheriff and an alien with PTSD symptoms can be said to be “warm”.
Faerber doesn’t miss a beat, and this issue gets things going again in a hurry. There’s a lot of tension here; the implication of a troubling connection between an inmate on the opening pages and Sheriff Bronson, the sexual frustration between Thaddeus and Sheriff Bronson, and the brewing battle between a gang of outlaws and, of course, Sheriff Bronson.
It’s great story-telling cemented by Godlewski’s superb artwork. I’m not one who believes that you can discern a person’s personality based solely on looks, but I make an exception when it comes to comics. I’m not saying that the book sticks to well-tread physically based stereotypes, quite the opposite actually. It’s just that the character designs here all sort of communicate the unique temperaments of each person perfectly.
The subtly raised eyebrows and the meaningful frowns, the twisted grimaces of effort and the nonplussed expressions – all of it feels like a well-acted play with a cast full of seasoned pros. Riley’s use of subdued colors helps to reinforce that view; that this is a dusty frontier town, full of hardy and mostly good, people.
Later, you may forgive yourself for missing the first story arc in this series; there really wasn’t an incredible amount of hype for the book and it was easy to overlook. I’m not sure you’ll be able to make that same excuse this time around, so self-forgiveness probably won’t come as easily. Besides, hype or no, it’s still a great comic and deserves all the eyeballs it can get.