Spencer & Locke #3: The Last Flight of Rocketman Reynolds
Writer: David Pepose
Artist: Jorge Santiago, Jr.
Colourist: Jasen Smith
Letterer: Colin Bell
Publisher: Action Lab Danger Zone
A review by Stephanie Pouliotte
Spencer & Locke #3 was another adrenaline-filled, pulse-pounding issue that I could not put down! While Spencer searches for his kidnapped partner, Locke finds himself drugged and strapped down by a sadistic doctor. Subjected to inhumane torture, Locke retreats even further into his damaged psyche, warping his perception of reality as he takes on one of his childhood personas, Rocketman Reynolds. Evidently this is a take on Calvin’s Spaceman Spiff, an intrepid space explorer who often finds himself marooned on distant planets, forced to fight its hostile inhabitants to survive (who are in actuality his less-than-amused parents or teachers.) But in this case, Locke is teetering on the edge of oblivion, trying to escape his armed captives while coping with some vivid trauma flashbacks. Could this be the final adventure of the brave Rocketman Reynolds?!
Like previous issues, we open with Santiago’s Calvin and Hobbes’ inspired art style in a flashback that quickly turns dark. I felt this one was a bit more forced than the others, but considering Locke’s anxiety-inducing circumstances, I wasn’t too bothered by Pepose injecting yet another rather shocking and rapid escalation of violence. I really enjoyed the juxtaposition of the doctor’s sterile demeanor and twisted personality, I found him to be a chilling addition to the cast of villains. It’s not clear how all of this fits into the bigger picture of Sophie’s murder, and we still don’t have any idea what Locke is getting himself into. Once Locke is injected with the doctor’s deadly cocktail of drugs, the issue just takes off at full throttle, and it’s an thrilling escape attempt that had my heart pounding. I was totally invested in the deterioration of Locke’s mental state through this pseudo fantasy, which really captured the creativity of a child’s imagination turned into palpable, violent terror.
Pepose maintains the high adrenaline pump by keeping the story tight, quickly transitioning panel-to-panel between a brutal reality, Locke’s perception as Rocketman Reynolds, and the traumatic childhood flashback that keeps piercing his mind. These transitions were seamless thanks to Santoago’s creative panel layout that recalls Watterson’s convention breaking Sunday strips, while Jasen Smith shows his best work yet this series with some psychedelic colours punctured by stark white contrasts. Every now and then we cut away from Locke’s daring escape to check in with Spencer rushing to find his friend before it’s too late, providing a much needed breather from the high-intensity chase. This ensures that the tension keeps rising instead of peaking too quickly and leveling out before the chaotic climax.
Buy it! Spencer & Locke #3 continues to engage with a thrilling story that, on the surface, uses elements from Calvin & Hobbes to relay the plot, but is grounded in the heart-wrenching exploration of Detective Locke’s character and a traumatic childhood he just can’t seem to shake. The final issue will reveal the answers to the mystery of Sophie’s death, but the burning question on my mind is this: In order to finally put the demons of his past to rest, will Locke have to let go of his fierce and loyal best friend?