Comic Book Review: Sparks

Writer Glenn Matchett unites with artist Kell Smith in Sparks for an intriguing opening sequence where the combination of art and writing create a contradictory effect. The writing depicts an upbeat and optimistic Ruth Gates, a television celebrity while the art makes a complete 180 depicting a depressed, horrified and ultimately murdered celebrity. The sequence does a good job of hooking the reader as they desire to find out “who dun it.”

Smith has some interesting art choices starting on page two, where she teases the villain in a split panel with a black suit next to the lead detective in a white suit. Flip the page and the detective is wearing a black suit. One might have to go back and double check a couple times to make sure you are looking at the police detective and not the villain, fortunately the facial hair differentiates the two.

The most entertaining part of the comic is when Matchett introduces the reader to Sparks Investigations, a private detective agency, run by Mel Sparks and her secretary Kathy. The conversations they have are realistic. At one point Mel teases Kathy on the amount of Chinese food she has inhaled, and even her life choices when it comes to the types of men she dates. These scenes provide a much needed comic relief.

In between the scenes involving Kathy, Mel is investigating the murder of Ruth Gates. She uses her charm and past police credentials to look into the crime scene. Unfortunately, one would expect a private detective such as Mel to have seen a crime scene or two, but she looks absolutely sickened only to transition into the next panel unphased asking professional questions. It really throws the reader off.

The biggest gripe with Sparks is the amount of dialogue on each page crowds out the art and takes up the majority of the panels. This also causes problems with the flow of the story and determining which word bubbles to read next. The bubbles are placed in the middle of two panels making it difficult to determine which panel it corresponds with. Matchett may also want to look into finding a new editor, as there were a number of typographical and grammatical errors.

Despite these setbacks, Matchett and Smith recover to give a doozy of an ending, which really turns the story upside down and sets up Sparks Investigations for hopefully numerous cases to come!

The Verdict

Cluttered panels and sometimes difficult to follow speech bubbles, with odd stylistic choices bog down an inventive storyline with a strong female character.

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