Title: Copperhead #1
Writer: Jay Faerber
Artist: Scott Godlewski
Publisher: Image Comics
Rating: 3.8 / 5
When I first heard about Copperhead my fingertips tingled. I couldn’t wait to add it to my pull list and flip through the pages the day it was released. Firely is probably my favourite non-comedy show and Deadwood is, well, the best depiction of the Western genre in the past couple decades, in my opinion. Why does that matter? Faerber claims his initial vision was something akin to “Combin[ing] Deadwood with Firefly.” Sign me up!
Single mother-of-one, Clara Bronson, takes a job as Sheriff in the dusty, sparse town of Copperhead. Her deputy, Budroxifinicus, is less than thrilled he didn’t get appointed Sheriff himself. But there’s more than a disgruntled partner that Clara will have to tangle with, as Copperhead quickly shows it has its fair share of mystery and murder to dish out.
The comic opens slowly as we’re introduced to the main character and the titular town. I was immediately pleased by the visuals and short dialogue, but something seemed off to me, enough that there came a point where I thought to myself “I think I will cancel this from my pull list.” It didn’t last long. By the end I had been won back and decided I will keep it going. Whatever that intangible source of doubt was, it was defeated by the incredible setting and the plot-churning forward.
It’s not so much that Faerber fails at combining Deadwood and Firefly, it’s just that the nature of comic books has seemed to force him to move at a bit faster of a pace than the slow-burn fans of the Western genre might be used to. That, in my opinion, can be the fault of no writer working in comics. He only has just over 20 pages to drag you in, so of course it can’t all be slow-burn.
That said, the characters are introduced well and we already have a grasp on a handful; what makes them tick and what they may be motivated by. The visuals are very well done, as well. Godlewski’s edges are crisp and the grit of an old-frontier town easily shines through in his work. The pastel colours provided by Ron Riley complete the Western vibe more than satisfactorily, giving that rusty glow so-often seen as a trope, but a wonderful trope, in all aspects of the genre.
Review by Brent W. Gladney