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Copperhead, Vol 1 – Image Comics – 2015

After seeing the high praise from Robert Kirkman and Brian K. Vaughn, I was really expecting this one to wow me. Unfortunately, the first issue is the best, introducing Clara Bronson as a tough, no-nonsense single mom, arriving at a backwater space western town as its new sheriff. She also finds herself at odds with a deputy who’s resentful she got the job he wanted; see, his race was on the losing side of some galactic war, so reporting to a human woman is infuriating after that not-too-distant defeat. This volume is mostly settling in and introducing characters: the artificial human turned “Jeremiah Johnson”-type mountain man, the greedy mine owner, the drunk town doctor, a variety of weird aliens. Clara’s first day on the job starts off with a domestic assault case that turns into a murder investigation, while her latchkey son almost gets himself killed by some savage bug-like natives.

To be honest, the whole comic has a “been there, done that” feel; we’ve already seen this before, and there’s not much in the first two Copperhead volumes that’s new or original. The part that felt most interesting and authentic to me was hidden all the way in the back of the volume, a transcript of some of the emails where Faerber and Godlewski were brainstorming (back before they even had a name for the series). The tone is almost giddy as they throw cool ideas at the wall: that enthusiasm did as much to keep me interested in the series than the first volume did.

Maybe I’m being a bit too harsh on the comic; it’s not bad by any means, just average in the “doesn’t break the mold or push any envelopes” vein. Godlewski’s art is slick as hell, very smooth with clean lines and very reminiscent of classic SF art. The colors are muted tans and browns, but a splash of color here or there keeps things interesting, and the character and setting designs are great. And Faerber has established a solid setup here; volume 2 starts to hint at Clara’s mysterious past and the big galactic war (it’s a bit vague). I just wish the first volume had done more with it other than “generic murder investigation” and “generic lost kid is saved by someone who looked like a badguy” plot threads.

Again, it’s a solid and entertaining series, but I’m still waiting for the wow factor to kick in here. This first volume offers a solid foundation for the series to build on, but it’s very by-the-numbers with its setting and tropey characters; I’d like to see more of the world, its recent war, and these characters, all of which could add much-needed uniqueness and identity to the series. If you like space westerns like Firefly, SF/western/police procedural mashups, or Image’s other series like Saga, Lazarus, Low, Black Science, The Autumnlands, etc. etc., you’ll probably like this one as well, though it falls short of Image’s best SFF series like Saga, Monstress, or East of West.

Book Details
Do I recommend this/will I continue reading it?: It’s not bad, but it felt too by-the-numbers to earn a high recommendation.
Recommended for fans of: Firefly, Bravestarr, The Fuse, Black Science, Lazarus, Deadwood, literal space westerns in general.
Not recommended for readers who: are seeking the utmost in originality and unique inventiveness in their fiction; who are allergic to literal space westerns.
Title: Copperhead – A New Sheriff in Town
Author: Jay Faerber
Illustrator: Scott Godlewski
First Published: 2015
What I Read: Image, 2015
Price I Paid: $3.99 (Kindle/Comixology sale)
MSRP: $9.99 hc / $7.99 ebook
ISBN/ASIN: 1632152215 / B015XCCK20