Short Hand #1 (Comixology)


Rating: 4/5 – A compelling character piece, done-in-one, dressed as a detective story

 For a guy that complains about digital comics so much, I find myself reading quite a few of them.  At its best, digital comics represent a means to bypass the barriers of printing costs, distribution and access to retail outlets.  Another benefit is the discovery of books past their limited time on the new comics rack at your local LCS.  One such book from 2012, Short Hand, now can be found on Comixology.  Writer Jason McNamara and artist Rahsan Ekedal bring us an unusual take on the grizzled, veteran detective story.

We start in a sleepy small town with two cops, one veteran looking to retire, taking his new partner, Aaron Woods, to visit an in-home parolee, Oscar.  Oscar is short, crotchety and looks to be about 80 years old.  Woods and Oscar do not get along and Oscar fancies himself a detective.  Once the officers leave, Oscar slips his tracking bracelet and goes to follow-up a lead in a retirement home about some missing false teeth that the police had no interest in pursuing.  As he investigates the crime, Woods investigates Oscar’s case and learns the unusual details of Oscar’s circumstances.  At the end, Wood must decide how to deal with Oscar, with leniency or throw the book at him.

I really enjoyed Ekedal’s art in this book.  You may be familiar with his work in Echoes with writer Joshua Hale Fialkov, and here he gives you plenty of detail but unlike many detective genre pieces he keeps the artwork light instead of dark.  The book takes place during the day so it is proper, but too often there is a temptation to cloak these comics in darkness and shadows to give moody atmosphere.  Ekedal is confident in his art to convey not only the story but the necessary tone.

I have left some of the reveals for the reader but the joy in the book is not in some surprise Twilight Zone/EC Comics style twist but in the telling of the story.  McNamara gives us a complete story in one issue that stands on its own.  I would be willing to read more but would be equally satisfied with this single tale.  The characters are well-defined and Officer Woods is left with a meaningful choice at the end of the book.  There is no gory violence, bad language or excessive sexuality.  I recommend this book to those both familiar with Ekedal’s artwork and those that like a compelling one-and-done detective story.

Reviewed by: Andrew Sanford – Covering the full spectrum of comics culture

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