Three Comic Mysteries
The Mystery is a time-honored genre, but not one that comic books delve into very often--not speaking classically, anyway. There are loads of crime comics--a classic genre dating back to the famous E.C. stories and beyond--and hundreds of stories that contain mysteries to be solved, certainly, but very few that actually read like classic mysteries.Very few that star a detective (whether accredited, amateur, or armchair) solving someone's case in the vein of Miss Marple, Sherlock Holmes, or Hercule Pirot. I would like to draw your attention to three of my favorite that do, all with their own particular twist:
There are two volumes of Stumptown available right now, and Greg Ruka is determined to write more, so jump into this gritty mystery series now! This is the quintessential American style of mystery story-telling, featuring that staple character the P.I., or Private Investigator. He's usually an ex-cop or something similar, down-on-his-luck, with his private life in the toilet and his professional career rather shabby, but with enough frayed moral fiber underneath his weary cynicism that he can't help but do the right thing even when he doesn't want to. That's pretty much the story of Dex, whose gambling troubles have left her in debt to the Confederated Tribes--but that debt will be wiped-out if she can find the missing granddaughter of the casino's head operator. A simple-on-the-surface missing person's case quickly gets not just complicated but downright deadly when organized crime gets involved, and soon it's all Dex can do to keep herself alive, let alone find and retrieve her quarry. And that's before she confronts the mystery of the Baby in the Velvet Case...but that's getting ahead of things! Stumptown is off to a great start, with a varied array of background characters to bolster (and beleaguer) our poor raggedy heroine, more than one string of bad luck, a car that's seen a few too many chase scenes, and a whole string of compelling mysteries waiting in the wings.
With two volumes out now, and hopefully more on the way, Resident Alien is starting to flesh-out its world-building with some lovely background subplots. On the surface, however, it's simply a good mystery story. You have your classic small town murder, where the only person who can wade through the sea of secrets and old grudges to get to the truth is the local outsider...only this outsider is from farther away than usual. This one is from space, and is trying to keep a low-profile until he can be rescued from his crash-landing on planet Earth. He gets dragged into the mystery however, and finds that not only is solving crimes fun, but so is interacting with people. "Harry" soon starts making friends (thanks to a low-level telepathic field that keeps people from noticing that he's an alien) and the next time a body turns up, he practically jumps at the chance to help out...which might not be a good thing, because there are some familiarly-garbed people in black suits who are very interested in this out-of-town amateur detective. If you've ever wondered what The X-Files would be like if they were written by Agatha Christie, then Resident Alien is the book where you can find out!
Fuse is only on its first story-arc, but right from the start one can see that it's destined to be a little bit different. The set-up is basic: a cop transfers to a new beat, and before he can even get to know his new partner (who is clearly harboring secrets of her own), he's embroiled in a murder investigation thanks to a vagrant's corpse that dropped in his lap. Only this "new beat" is up in outer space, and the station that he's stationed on has a host of secrets all its own, secrets the like of which one could never find in an earth-bound mystery. This first story-arc is called "The Russia Shift" and if that's not enough to make you curious...how about trying to solve a murder without any back-up in a place that's too fragile to use guns, because if you puncture the hull you'll be sucked out into space? That's what life is like for cops working 22,000 miles above the earth in a five-mile-long jury-rigged steel city stuffed with a half million people. And this is just the beginning of Fuse, so there's no guessing what might come next...