Short Hand one-shot
“The Toothless Fairy”
Writer: Jason McNamara
Artist: Rahsan Ekedal
Price: $5 US
Jason McNamara loves him some comics. I’m familiar with him from his work on the entertaining Martian Confederacy graphic novels, and he’s billed as the “writer-in-residence” for lauded comic shop Isotope. McNamara passed along his latest project, Short Hand, for review, and it’s a much different project than his two Martian Confederacy books. The premise — a 12-year-old boy detective with progeria, making him look like he’s at the end of his life rather than the beginning — is a solid one. And while this appears to be a one-shot, there’s definitely life in the concept beyond this one story. In fact, McNamara’s plot leaves the door open for more. Unfortunately, Short Hand suffers from a couple of flaws: up-front spoilers that ruin the reveal to which the story builds, and artwork that seems to take what’s meant as a lighter story a bit too seriously. Nevertheless, it’s a promising effort and worth checking out if you run into McNamara during the 2012 comics-convention circuit.
Oscar Lindstat has a number of serious problems. He’s too smart for his own good, and his curious, keen mind is always getting him into serious trouble, so much so he’s on probation and is confined to his home by means of an ankle monitor. It’s a surprising measure to take with a 12-year-old kid, but then, he’s far from your average pre-teen. After all, he can pass for an octogenarian, thanks to being afflicted with progeria. But no ankle monitor or rare, terminal condition can contain a kid eager to delve into a mystery and help people. Today, he’s decided to get to the bottom of a spree of denture thefts at a local nursing home.
Rahsan Ekedal’s art clearly takes some cues from traditional super-hero comics storytelling, but Short Hand is pretty far removed from that genre. Most of the time, the artist strives for a realistic look, and he achieves it for the most part. However, when it comes to a few characters — notably, the central protagonist — he employs exaggeration. The result is a number of caricatures being shoved into an otherwise realistic world. Ekedal’s work struck me as being akin to the style of Shane (Superman: Earth One) Davis, albeit looser, with more of an uninked look. The background detail he brings to the book works nicely, and when it comes to the more straightforwardly rendered characters — such as the sheriffs –it’s clear he has a solid handle on anatomy. He just needs to add different body types to his repertoire.
The first problem I found with this comic is the fact the creators spoil their twist premise before they tell the story. The cover blurb proclaims, “The world’s oldest detective is twelve.” That kind of makes the revelation of Oscar’s secret later in the book — both to the reader and to the sheriff who’s taking over the babysitting duties — rather anti-climactic. For a one-shot, keeping the secret so as to smack the audience with a nice twist makes sense, but if this were meant as a launching pad for continuity stories and adventures, holding that card close to the vest doesn’t make much sense. Personally, I think it would’ve been better for the script to be overt about Oscar’s unique situation so the reader could feel included in his mischief.
Given the fact the mystery at the heart of the plot revolves around stolen dentures, I was a bit puzzled as to why McNamara and Ekedal play things a little on the serious side at times. Sure, Oscar’s plight is a tragic one, but it seems this book should be about the joy he gets from flexing his intellect, from fooling the adults around him, from living. I don’t thing danger or threats really have a place in this sort of story. I’d rather it was a little cuter, casting off the slightly gritty tone that creeps into the storytelling at times. 5/10
For more information on Short Hand and McNamara, visit the writer’s website.
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