Copperhead #1 reminds me of Joss Whedon’s Firefly. That in itself is pretty high praise, but the book succeeds because it isn’t trying to be Firefly. Jay Faerber and Scott Godlewski are creating their own take on the ‘space western’ genre. This impressive debut issue, published by Image Comics, promises greatness to come.
The story opens on a train through the desert. It’s obvious from the first panel that we’re on another planet, but the story never spells it out. I think that one strength of the book is that it’s focused on the characters and story. The setting isn’t played up at all. On the train to Copperhead, we’re introduced to Sheriff Clara Bronson and her son Zeke. By the time she steps off the train, we know who Clara is. She’s left something precious behind, there’s a darkness in her past, and she’s a badass.
She meets Deputy Budroxifinicus at the train station. ‘Boo’, as he is nicknamed by Zeke, is a hulking, mammalian alien who isn’t a fan of Clara. He wanted the job of sheriff and feels that the only reason he didn’t get it was the discrimination against his species. There are implications of an interspecies war in the past and the prejudice is still apparent in the society. Clara is soon called to deal with a domestic dispute, and through the rest of the book it becomes clear that the town was sorely in need of the new sheriff.
I can’t praise the writing of this book highly enough. The dialogue is crisp. The exposition is minimal. The characters are fun, but with depth. Clara in particular is a joy. I’ve only known her for a single issue, but I already count her among my favorite comic book characters in recent memory. Throughout the book there are just the barest hints of the bigger story that’s going to unfold. Faerber has faith in the reader to draw some of their own conclusions about the universe. It’s this faith that elevates the book to greatness.
The art of the book is superb. Godlewski is doing some great things here. The art tells us just as much about the world as the writing, if not more. It does a lot of the heavy lifting in characterizing Clara and Boo. Their expressions are easily readable, something that can be difficult to accurately portray. The art captures the classic western feeling easily, while expanding it to include fantastic alien designs. I also have to mention colorist Ron Riley, whose work on Copperhead is outstanding. It really brings the entire piece together.
Copperhead #1 is a great book. If it keeps up this momentum, this series is going to go down as one of Image’s best. There’s so much to love here. Whether you’re a Browncoat, a fan of westerns, or just someone looking for a good story, this book will blow you away.