By Matt D. Wilson and Kevin Warren
A new series from digital comics publisher Monkeybrain Comics, Copernicus Jones: Robot Detective #1 is a pretty effective crime noir. The title is mostly in gray scale, with only a brief moment of red, and the framing and pacing feels right at home in that genre. The lead character, however, is not quite what you would expect from a crime noir. Copernicus Jones is a robot, and in this world there is a good bit of regularity to robots inhabiting and interacting with humans to various levels of independence.
The new series opens with a common story telling tactic where readers find themselves in the middle of some circumstance before jumping back to learn exactly what has transpired. With a number one issue it is a great way to grab readers from the opening panels and it is a great choice by Matt Wilson. As the story flashes back, the homage to the noir story is layered on. Copernicus is seated in his office when a dame appears with a job that seems maybe too convenient. The woman, Jeanette, has suspicions about her husband’s business and wants Copernicus to investigate for a large sum offered at the completion of his investigation.
Wilson and artist Kevin Warren do a great job teaming up to keep a consistent tone throughout the story. As the first issue of Copernicus Jones continues, the case gets all the more interesting. Jones stakes out the business of Harold Winstone, the husband in question, only to discover that there is much more going on that Jeanette had suspected. Wilson manages to bring the story full circle and still leave readers on a cliffhanger.
The structure of the first issue, from its opening tease, to how it concludes makes for a fantastic way to hook new readers. Wilson and Warren capture the noir genre quite well but still manage to do so with a light sensibility. The inclusion of robotic characters does not betray the core elements of a noir story but the choice does keep the overall reading experience from getting gritty or dark. It all fits together quite well and issue one is a promising start. The first issue has a bit of a confusing sequence in the middle where the speakers are a bit difficult to track amidst an altercation, but it is a small detraction from a well written book. Otherwise, Copernicus Jones: Robot Detective #1 is a very strong first chapter. Though Wilson utilizes a bit of a writing trope here, he justifies it and proves that it plays as an excellent format for introducing a new universe to readers.