In a recent discussion of his favorite comics for TNC’s My Favorite Things, Mike Sambrook discovered, “I guess I like stories about troubled outsider children that escape into fantasy to avoid dealing with the horrendous real world…” With Ramlock Investigates #1, his comic collaboration for Madius Comics with Rob Jones and artist, Drew ‘Drewvis’ Bristow, he’s created such a bedtime story. Detective Shirley Ramlock and his partner, Hamish Pigling, are adult animals, not children, but they are outsiders, and their first case, “shearing without consent,” has serious real world connotations. Ewan the sheep was asleep when someone cut off his wool coat. Ramlock and Pigling have been charged with finding the coat and the perpetrator who took it.
While likely to go over the heads of younger readers, the fun packaging covers up some important commentary about how first reactions in cases of “consent” often involve doubting the victim. When Ewan [spoiler] later became a femme fatale, this interpretation gets a little hairy but the femme fatale archetype has always been a sore spot in detective stories, with beautiful women revealed to be trouble-causing liars. Through changing the gender, Ramlock Investigates avoids ‘woman in a red dress’ exploitation (Pigling even asks Ewan to cover-up), while one-liners from classic sayings, like “a wolf in sheep’s clothing,” are delivered with the snap of Rosalind Russell in His Girl Friday.
Melodrama is the flavor of the day, with all involved masters of the in-joke and demonstrating an extensive knowledge of the genre they’re riffing. Consider DI Ledog who, upon receiving a call about a robbery [on his red telephone, of course], gets a whole frame to leap over his desk, or Ewan giving the obligatory “how dare you even imply I have enemies” response, only to then name a possible suspect in the next panel. Drewvis’ soft, round lines and almost water color art (see the lanterns during the ninja scene) set the perfect, light tone for this all ages release, and the delight in finding that no opportunity is missed to place a humorously written sign in the background is contagious.
Particularly in the cliff-hanger ending, that leaves our heroes in a compromising position, Ramlock Investigates has a very 1960’s Batman vibe, and, if there’s any other way of taking that, I mean it as a compliment. The buddy comedy is flipped in terms of personality (Ramlock may have the title role but it’s Pigling who’d be Batman) but exaggerated fight sequences (minus the “Kapow!”) and cornball literary wordplay, crammed with puns and alliteration, all work together to form a timeless spectacle. Brooding angst isn’t the only way of approaching crime.
As the case expands, some start to doubt that Ramlock and Pigling can handle it. DI Ledog stands by these underdogs. Readers will, too.
The first issue is currently sold out, but be on the lookout for issue #2, “The Smell of Danger,” which the back cover says should come out this year.