A wise six-year-old boy once asked “Santa, kind old elf or C.I.A spook?” This new book from Darby Pop publishing inadvertently looks to answer this question, and surprisingly the truth, at least for the purpose of this iteration, lies somewhere between the lines drawn by Calvin’s question.
The premise of the story is based on another question – what does Santa do the rest of the 364 days of the year. Well for a guy purporting to know if you have been “naughty or nice”, it makes a modicum of sense that he is a private detective. Jolly ol’ St Nick works the deadbeat shift, catching the unfaithful and the like in compromising positions, where he finds cheating partners getting their full of not so Christmas stocking fun. So when a possible high-class job rolls up at his office, Nick has a choice, follow the money or high tail it back to North Pole to get ready for his “real job”. Of course the lure of the money wins out, after all, Nick is a little short this month and sooner than you can sing “Santa Claus is coming to town” he is involved in a murder most horrid.
Jeremy Bernstein made his name writing for TV shows Leverage and The Librarians along with working on a host of video games including Dead Space 2 and Pretty in Pink. To say that he some skills is an understatement. Here Bernstein works the angles of the story effectively well. Whilst working the case, we get to see the “how” and “why for” of Nick’s seeming disparate lifestyles. To his credit, both story elements work extremely well; it is hard for me to say which I preferred. Away from comics, I am a big Michael Connolly fan and I am used to pitting my wits against the author in trying to determine “whodunit”. Here, Nick’s back-story kind of overshadowed my interest, mainly due to the unusual situation we find Nick in. Being a trade, you are blessed with the whole story, which I think adds to the whole experience; I’m not so sure the story would have had the same punch as single issues. The dialogue is pure gumshoe, with a meandering narrative that doesn’t take itself too seriously.
The art is provided by Mike Dorman who does a great job of creating the visual elements of a crime noir story. You have dark shadows, with the light from the street lights, slicing in through the blinds of the office. In addition the ambiguous moral code in play from the cast of the characters is mirrored in their night-time environs. Dorman’s art reminds me a lot of Pat Broderick in the way that they both set the figures and especially the facial elements. Nick is a study in contrast, not seemingly happy in either job, yet is driven by a self-appointed goal. With the book being a crime noir story, you need a femme fatale. Whilst this book has one in spades; if Dorman had to improve his pencils, it would be in the female form as here, whilst I can appreciate the intent of Dorman’s Widow Barton, other than her attire, there is a need to relax the figure work to establish the curves that would make the character stand out, possibly the way Bernstein had originally intended. Rob Schwager provides the colors to aid and abet Dorman throughout the book, creating a solid scheme that fits the genre, if fantasy elf, Christmas, private detective is an actual genre.
Santa Claus: Private Eye is a great read, with plenty of twist and turns and is a welcome addition to the ongoing quality over quantity stable of books that Darby Pop have published over the last year or so.
Santa Claus: Private Eye is released on November 29th and for more information about the book click HERE for an interview with creator and writer Jeremy Bernstein.
Writing – 5 Stars
Art – 5 Stars
Colors -5 Stars
Written by; Jeremy Bernstein
Art by; Mike Dorman
Colors by; Rob Schwager
Published by, Darby Pop Publishing