Writer: Chuck Dixon
Artist: Michael Perkins
Publisher: CrossGen Comics
Looking to avoid a gang of thugs that has come into Partington looking for revenge we see former prize fighter Peter Grimes seeks refuge at a country estate, where he poses as hired help. However, when a murder most foul is committed we see Peter Grimes is forced to call upon his rather limited intellect to uncover the murderer's identity, and he manages to accomplish this seemingly difficult task in a rather unorthodox manner.
With the main title slated for the chopping block, I guess this is likely to be the last of these Archard's Agents one-shots, as if the main book couldn't find a sizeable enough audience, the characters that operate in the background are even less likely to do so. However, this standalone adventure is a somewhat cute display of what would happen if a character who was woefully ill-suited to deal with a mystery was placed into the role of solving a parlor room scene, in which all the suspects to a murder are gathered together in a single room and the hero proceeds to name the murderer, and detail how the dirty deed was accomplished. However, while the way our hero goes about solving the mystery is rather clever in how it sidesteps the sophistication of mystery solving and simply resorts to brute force, the simple fact of the matter is that Chuck Dixon did a very poor job of setting up a mystery that was even the slightest bit compelling. I mean all he does is introduce a string of guilty looking suspects, offers up the murder, and then when it's solved were asked to be impressed when the one person who committed the murder was the only one without a seeming motive. It's a little difficult to really enjoy a murder mystery when there are no clues offered up, and when the big reveal is offered up the writer decides to show his disdain for the murder mystery plot by offering up one of the flimsiest reasons one could think of for why the murderer would've acted against their victim.
As for the art, the one nice thing that may come out of CrossGen's recent line trimming is that the artistic talent that they managed to gather under their banner will be compelled to seek out work from the other companies, and Michael Perkins is one such find that I hope Marvel and/or DC are quick to make use of, as his highly realistic style is nice mix between the work of smooth, elegant line work of Greg Land with the more textured use of shadowing that one finds from Butch Guice. His work on this one-shot is a fine display of his talent, as it opens with a fairly exciting action shot of our hero back in the day, and the art also does some solid work capturing the violence of his attack upon the man he picks out as the murderer. Overall, the art is what would have me wanting people to take a look at this issue, as it's a solid display of his talent.
This one-shot has a single clever idea going for it as we see that on the brain versus brawn scale our hero is very much on the brawn side of the equation, and yet he's called upon to solve a mystery where brains are normally the required prerequisite for success. Now the way our hero goes about using brawn to solve the mystery made me smile, but my enjoyment was quickly quashed by the reveal that made it clear Chuck Dixon had very little interest in offering up a real mystery, as the motive for the murder is utterly laughable. It also didn't help matters that there was no effort made to offer up any clues, as instead Chuck Dixon decided that giving everyone but the real murderer a reason for wanting to see the victim dead was enough to make a compelling mystery. Now our lead character is a fairly likeable character, and while he's not nearly as much fun as when he's busy crushing over Emma, and acting as her oaf in shining armor, this issue does a pretty fair job of capturing his inner charm.
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