Written by Ed Brubaker
Art by Michael Lark
Some times I look back on some of the mini-series I've missed over the years, and I've had to wonder what I was thinking passing some things over for other things. The first issue of Scene of the Crime is cover-dated May 1999, so I would have been in my last year of university, working on my second degree. Money was tight, but my time was even tighter in those days, so I can understand how I may not have picked up this gem, but when I look at the checklist in the back, and realize that I was buying Peter Milligan's The Minx instead, I have to wonder (although, strangely, that was drawn by Sean Phillips, so maybe I should have read both of these books together).
Anyway, Scene of the Crime has recently been re-released in a nice new hardcover edition, but I came across a complete set of the comics, and decided I'd rather read that.
This series came very early in writer Ed Brubaker's career, and from what I can tell was his first mini-series (most of his earlier work appeared in anthologies like Dark Horse Presents). Artist Michael Lark had been around for a while, but hadn't really made much of a name for himself (although I have fond memories of his issues of Shade the Changing Man). It was still kind of new for Vertigo to tell a straight-up noir story, without any fantastical elements at play.
The story is about Jack Herriman, a private investigator who is a lot younger than the usual archetype character we find in stories like this. Herriman lives with his aging uncle, who is a famous crime photographers (who'd once punched out Weegee in an argument), and they sometimes collaborate on his cases. When Jack was young, his police officer father was killed in a bomb blast that was meant to take out another cop, Paul Raymond, who has spent his life looking out for Jack. When the series opens, Paul has sent a new client to Jack.
The young woman is looking for her sister, who has gone missing. It doesn't take Jack long to track her down, after discovering that she'd spent some time around a commune-like group (the story is set in San Francisco) that also makes their money growing weed. Jack and the missing sister have a nice conversation, and Jack leaves her, having completed his task. The next day, he discovers that the girl was murdered, and his sense of justice demands that he investigates further.
The story works very well, as Jack and a couple of his friends and accomplices investigate the hippy organization that the girl had briefly lived with, and find connections between it and another group whose commune had been destroyed in flames years before. Brubaker tells these types of stories very well, building up the characters into familiar types, (I was, at times, reminded of the 70s arcs of Fatale) but still keeping the story feeling fresh and interesting.
Lark is a very good artistic choice for this kind of story. His approach to realism is never flashy or attention-seeking, and he furthers the story quite well. He has a very good sense of personal drama about his characters.
This was a solid read that, with the exception of the rarity of modern personal electronics, has aged very well. That hardcover is worth getting a copy of.