Thursday Comics Hangover: The Fix is in

Last week’s big book news was obviously the first issue of the Black Panther from Ta-Nehisi Coates and Brian Stelfreeze, but there was another debut that deserves your attention, too. Nick Spencer and Steve Lieber’s new series The Fix is a crime comic with relatively small stakes, but it’s entertaining as hell — funny, dirty, and charming all at once.

Spencer and Lieber earned a cult following with their work on Marvel’s Superior Foes of Spider-Man series, which was a funny heist comic featuring some D-List Spider-Man villains. Foes was for a while my favorite book from the big two superhero publishers, with its self-effacing sense of humor and twisty plot. Spencer’s script doesn’t skimp on the words; the pages are full of word balloons and captions that amplify our understanding of what’s on the page. (He never over-explains, or steps on the artist's job.) And Lieber’s art is clear, character-based, and packed with fun details.

The Fix is a heist comic starring a pair of terrible human beings. It’s basically Foes with all the superhero pretenses taken out. (And let’s be honest: the superhero trappings were the worst part of Foes; the story only fell apart when characters had to explain why they were dressed up in funny outfits.) And because it’s published by Image, Lieber and Spencer get to cram all the sex talk and violence and swearing they want in there.

I can’t give away too much of what The Fix is about without ruining the fun, but it opens with a heist gone wrong, continues with a character study of a dirty cop, and then raises the stakes into a caper that can’t possibly end well, with a perfect little cliffhanger ending. Every twist has a second twist layered on top of it, and none of those storytelling reversals feels manufactured or cheesy. Spencer’s dialogue — kind of Elmore Leonard-y, though with more semen jokes — keeps things running smoothly. (Seriously, there’s a lot of sex talk. You should be warned that occasionally the chat leans in the direction of gay panic, but it always skitters away at the last minute.)

The Fix is at the very crest of a tidal wave of heist comics coming at us. This week saw the first issues of Jackpot (a decent heist comic that suffers a bit from terrible art) and Heartthrob (a very promising ghost story/heist comic), and the next few weeks will see the debut of another series called 4 Kids Walk Into a Bank. The question has to be whether an ongoing serial medium like comics can sustain the amped-up pressure that the crime genre demands. I’d expect at least half of these series to flag after a few issues, but Lieber and Spencer proved with Foes that they could keep a crime story going for at least three fairly thick trade paperbacks. I’d expect The Fix to keep running on high power for the next few years.