An enchanting thriller-in-the-making, Pine & Merrimac #1 delivers your new favorite dynamic duo. A delightful couple of characters who also happen to be a delightful married couple, the Kents are detectives. Well, Linnea is the detective (and former cop) and her husband Parker is the former MMA fighter turned professional muscle. Together, they run an agency located in her hometown of Jamesport at the corner of Pine and Merrimac streets. Her aversion to murder is the reason she left the force for this private practice where they primarily handle “cozy” infidelity and insurance cases—but she’s about to break her own rules and embark on a case where the intrigue and danger build with every panel.
It’s rare to see a happily married couple in comics, and writer Kyle Starks (Where Monsters Lie, I Hate This Place) wanted to highlight that dynamic with this series. “One of the best, most beautiful, marvelous things in the world is a happy couple,” Starks said. “Pop culture has chosen to rarely highlight this magnificent sight: in sitcoms the couple is always either antagonistic or cruel, rom-coms are always about the precursor to the longterm relationship, [and] dramas don’t work unless there’s drama, obviously.” Starks’ tightly woven script provides entertaining character introductions, believable world-building, and hints of the sinister undercurrent in store for his intrepid detectives.
The ”cozy mystery” atmosphere established with the fluid lines and soft panel transitions of artist Fran Galán (The Amazing Spider-Man) in the early pages is interrupted when Linnea takes on a missing persons case too compelling for her to ignore—going against her rule to never accept that kind of case. This also sets off a shift in Galán’s appealing color work as the breezy pastels and sunny demeanor of the first pages change over to the darker interiors and edgy linework of a seedy biker bar and the exquisite fight scene that follows. Galán’s gorgeous action sequences have a smooth, animated texture, and you can almost feel the breeze when Parker deftly avoids punches.
Because Linnea took on a case that she shouldn’t have, it’s apparent that Stark will escalate and transform her “cozy mystery” existence through each book of this five-issue run into a nail-biting thriller. If your LCS is sold out of the issue, never fear, the second printing of Pine & Merrimac #1 is due in shops January 24. Mystery fans will want to add this title to their pull lists—I already have.
Kyle Starks (W), Fran Galán (A/C), Pat Brosseau (L) • BOOM! Studios, $4.99
Review by Karen O’Brien