‘The Case of the Lady’s Finger. After a grift against one of the King’s many cousins goes sideways, Isadora Héroux finds herself forcibly recruited by the Crown’s Secret Service to investigate a philanthropic society that raises as many red flags as it does funds. She gets a gig as a personal assistant to the personal assistant of the Society’s accountant and soon finds herself in water far hotter than the break room coffee. Extra-large issue!’
Written/Art by: Kate Sherron
Released: October 4th 2017
Now, I don’t normally even touch something that’s not a first issue, graphic novel, or stand-alone in some way when it comes to doing reviews. I think there’s the opportunity for a funny review series where I take random issues and try to figure out what’s going on, but Pop Comic Review doesn’t happen to be it. If I’m going to tell people about something to recommend it they need to be able to pick it up without doing a bunch of back research/reading. However, I took a closer look at this because I was intrigued by the premise and art (even if I didn’t plan to review it), and because I like detective mysteries. The whole thing looks fun. It turned out even better than I thought, and although it’s going to take more issues to make a proper story, I still wanted to share what I’ve read of it with you.
The Casebook of Rabbit Black series is speculative fiction (which is awesome), and is based on a private detective (specified as ‘freelancer’ but detective is what it seems to be) who is murdered but remains undead, unintentionally thanks to the necromancer who lives downstairs. The two are now stuck together since Black can’t go far from his resurrector, but he’s determined to solve his murder for one thing at least. That all happens in the first issue though; obviously further issues flesh things out from there with further mysteries and acquaintances. This particular issue focuses on con artist Isadora who draws on her own friends for help in a case she’s been put on by an agent of the Secret Service branch of this world’s monarchy (as per the issue description), including Black. The issue firmly revolves around Isadora though, following her from start to finish as she investigates, and this seems to be the standard for the issues – following a separate character in their adventures for that issue, bringing in the mains naturally as their advice or help is sought. That’s not to say it’s completely self-contained, as I mentioned earlier. While I caught up quick enough, there is an assumption of knowing some of the characters already, and it ends on one hell of a cliff hanger.
The speculative fiction bit means that while this world has been given roughly the same level of technology, it’s expressed differently, in this case with a charmingly retro style. Smartphones are ubiquitous but look more like a Gameboy, taking photos on miniature plates, and one scene has someone listening to music on a gramophone. The set up for this is done excellently in an early page; receiving a text on what’s obviously a smartphone but doesn’t look quite like one, a gun being thrown into a case that’s not quite the shape we’re used to. Since the expectation is that a reader will likely already be used to the world, it’s a good setup to introduce us to what to expect. Considering the retro style of the technology, it’s also used really well to analogue current tech – you know how sometimes when watching movies you go ‘why don’t they just call so-and-so? Why don’t they take a photo with their phone?’, well at least the characters here do actually use their phones. Texts are used a lot to communicate (though with coded initials instead of names, it took me a second read-through to properly catch who was talking to who at one or two points), and in one scene Isadora runs out of photo plates in her phone and has to ‘borrow’ another. The set-up of being a government case also gives good opportunities for exposition with case file updates. The writing overall is great – it’s a tense mystery with fun characters and high stakes, and I want to read more.
The art matches up to the casual yet energetic sensibilities. It’s very colourful, using the actual background page colour of what’s usually white space for colour as well, helping mark scene shifts and moods, something which works really well to affect the whole page without interfering with the actual panels, and that I haven’t seen often before. The page colour is in line with the colour theme of the panels for that page too, with subdued tones for the backgrounds helping make the characters pop. The linework is loose and flowing, with some cool perspective arrangements. The character designs are distinct and interesting too, hallmarks of Sherron’s style from what I’ve seen, with curves and cool clothes to boot. I do like easily recognisable characters when you’re reading a story where they’ve already been introduced! Even with a touch of the macabre (the titular ‘lady’s finger’ of the case isn’t a metaphor) the whole really brings that fun feel, relying on the story for grittiness while the visuals keep it largely light and unshadowed.
Luckily, it also turns out that The Casebook of Rabbit Black is the published version of a webcomic, so I can easily catch up on what the story was so far (I haven’t yet). Though of course, when you enjoy something the creator is putting out there for free, one of the best ways to keep it happening is to support them by buying it when you can (especially when it’s available digitally so it doesn’t have shipping pulling up the cost, one of my main gripes when it comes to buying published webcomics), and I totally will with this series. I love fun artwork, detective mysteries, and at least a touch of darkness, and this rolls it all up into an awesome package. Not to mention the world setting of a place with magic and weird tech, used so subtly as mere background dressing rather than being the point of the story. It’s all about the adventure, baby.
Thanks to Comixology.com for providing this issue of ‘The Casebook of Rabbit Black’ for review.