Spencer & Locke: Vol 1
Writer: David Pepose
Artist: Jorge Santiago, Jr.
Colorist: Jasen Smith
Letterer: Colin Bell
Warning: Spencer & Locke contains brutal violence and dark themes such as child abuse, pedophilia, etc. Reader’s discretion is advised.
We all have our own demons, our own skeletons that we hide in the closet. We each have our own way of keeping the lock secure on our doors. Many wouldn’t consider their way of doing so being a seven-foot-tall anthropomorphic panther named Spencer, but Locke, a grizzled detective, absolutely would. After all, who better to take care of you, watch your back, and be your partner in crime-fighting than your imaginary friend from your traumatic childhood?
And who better to keep you steady as you investigate the murder of your childhood sweetheart?
Or to keep you safe as you cross paths with an old enemy or an old abuser?
And who will be as real as you need them to be when facing down a twisted family reunion?
As Locke faces down the demons of his past, and the promises of a better future, Spencer is right by his side, whether he’s a doll or the toughest partner a detective could ask for.
The Story So Far (SPOILERS AND TW AHEAD):
In Volume 1, we find Locke investigating the murder of his old childhood sweetheart, Sophie Jenkins, with his trusty imaginary partner Spencer right by his side. As the trail leads him to Sophie’s remaining family, he meets her mother, as well as her shy daughter named Hero, quickly making her acquainted with Spencer. Once they leave after picking up on a trail she set them on, Hero is forced to watch in horror as her grandmother gets gunned down, before being kidnapped by a man claiming to be her grandfather.
After picking up a lead, Spencer and Locke head over to a shady nightclub that might possibly have a connection to those responsible for Sophie’s murder. However, things quickly go south when Spencer disappears, the sole cause being an unwanted reunion between Locke and the woman who violated him years ago, Ramona. As Locke starts to feel as if he’s trapped once again, he notices Hero being taken away and rushes after her in a car with a returning Spencer. While chasing them down, Ramona catches up to him and nearly puts his lights out for good, until Locke takes one last breath before pulling the trigger on her.
However, the duo’s luck runs out as their car crashes, with Locke getting kidnapped by the crime syndicate responsible for the madness. After being pumped full of lethal drugs, Locke finds the strength to break free and fight his way out of wherever he’s being kept, but not without a fair share of hallucinations along the way. As Spencer tries to find him, Locke is forced to confront the memory of killing his abusive mother in self-defense, and powers through the hallucinations to remember what his true goal is: saving Hero and bringing justice to whoever killed Sophie.
It all leads ahead to a dinosaur exhibit, where Spencer and Locke head to make a trade-off with the leader of the syndicate, who just so happens to be Locke’s father. When it’s revealed that Hero is actually Locke’s daughter, all hell breaks loose as she frees herself from one of the thugs, and Locke faces his father head-on. It’s revealed that the syndicate had nothing to do with Sophie’s death, as she was one of their dealers. In anger, Locke shoots his father between the eyes and leaves the exhibit with Spencer and Hero knowing who committed the murder. In the end, the culprit was revealed to be Mrs. Scabtree, the principal of the school Sophie taught at, and she broke down as she was hauled off into a police car, with Spencer and Locke watching.
Analysis and Why You Should Read:
It’s no secret that this book is a dark satirization of Calvin & Hobbes, especially with the art style used for the flashbacks, but in the end, it’s surprisingly not the main selling point of this title. It just so happens to be the characters, the themes, and the emotions surrounding all of them. Spencer and Locke as characters are by no means the most revolutionary. Hell, it’s probably intentional, as there’s a lot of subtle humor with the two characters and what their lines or actions satirize. However, the experiences, bonds, and emotions the two of them go through make this title something truly harrowing and special, especially when dealing with Locke’s broken childhood.
A lot of the themes used are surprisingly not done in poor taste and done in a way that makes complete sense in terms of psychology. How Spencer disappears when Locke smells the scent of jasmine, which reminds him of Ramona, especially struck me as something deeply mature and well-written about this title. It could’ve been so easy to make the imaginary friend aspect something unrealistic, but they treated it as something human and real, especially in the last issue of Volume 1 with Spencer and Hero.
The only downsides to these two books are that there not enough issues to flesh out the story more. I felt as if a lot of these themes needed to be expanded upon before being somewhat resolved, especially with the guilt Locke felt over having to kill his mother at a young age in self-defense. This doesn’t compromise the overall story at all, but it’s just an element that was lacking very slightly.
Why this title should be read, though, is because of how human it is. Beyond all the chaos, satire, and adult themes, there’s an emotional bond between a man and his imaginary friend that many people can relate to, regardless of the happenings in one person’s life. The dark themes are handled with absolute care and are never entirely made to be overbearing or exploitative, which is something I personally have a lot of respect for. Everything from the art and colors, to the writing and lettering, has a purpose in telling this story of Spencer and Locke, and the creative team does a phenomenal job every issue.
No matter who looks after us in life, whether it be a friend, a family member, or just yourself, there’s something for everyone to find solace in with Spencer & Locke. No matter what demons we have, or what skeletons we keep in our closet, I can assure you, you will find something in this story you can connect with.
See you in the funny pages.