…and at the other end of Nick Spencer’s skillset is this new creator-owned crime series with artist Steve Lieber, his partner-in-crime on “Superior Foes of Spider-Man.” That was one of my favorite Marvel series of recent years and I was really looking forward to seeing what they could do when not working within the constraints of a corporate-owned shared superhero universe. The results are pretty funny as we follow two corrupt cops, Roy and Mac, who are in for a lot of money to a crime boss whose love of clean living and natural foods is matched only by his psychopathic nature. In order to make this debt go away, they’ve just got to find a way to smuggle something through the Los Angeles International Airport. Problem is that puts them up against the most feared customs agent, with six hundred arrests and two tons of contraband seized in the past year, the airport has to offer: A beagle named Pretzels.
Much as it was with “Superior Foes,” a lot of the fun and comedy of this series comes from seeing how its protagonists are just clever enough to avoid getting killed because of their antics, but not smart enough to actually learn anything from their experiences. We see this right off the bat when Roy and Mac rob a retirement home with complications from a shotgun-wielding resident, and then wind up blowing their winnings betting on underground battlebot competitions. Their subsequent exploits involve Roy shooting Mac in his hand so that he can get a transfer, Roy framing a too-good-to-be-true officer for murder, and Mac trying to bond with Pretzels despite the fact that the dog instinctively knows his partner is up to no good. These antics are bound up with some scathingly cynical digressions about the current state of crime, why you should never trust the nicest guy around, and what teen stars are really groomed for. Thanks to Spencer’s gleefully incisive dialogue and Lieber’s instinctive knowledge for when to go deadpan and when to go cartoonish with the art, it all winds up being an unscrupulously funny experience.
Assuming that you’re even in the mood to find the misadventures of a couple of corrupt cops funny in this current day and age. With all of the police-related shootings that make the headlines these days it’s understandable that some readers will likely be put off by the very concept of the series. Others might get to the point where Roy waxes nostalgic about how being able to shoot whoever you want (sometimes) was one of the reasons he decided to be a cop and decide that’s crossing a line. I can also see some of Spencer’s more eccentric bits, such as Roy’s producer friend who is trying to resist the urge to make his own semen part of his diet, turning people off as well. The majority of this volume is made up of the good stuff I described in the previous paragraph, however, so if you can put aside the things described here then you’re likely to find this quite entertaining. Or maybe just go read “Superior Foes” if you’re looking for a more tasteful dose of Spencer and Lieber’s storytelling.