The eighth issue of Nick Spencer and Steve Lieber's crime comic The Fix was published yesterday, and this series keeps getting better. Ostensibly the story of two crooked Los Angeles cops and a drug-sniffing dog named Pretzels, The Fix keeps expanding to absorb more and more characters; what began as a character-focused heist story quickly (and effortlessly) became a huge ensemble piece.
Note those words: "expanding," "huge." This isn't the vocabulary you usually use to describe an Elmore Leonard riff. What wasn't apparent in the clever first issue of The Fix is that it's a shaggy dog story, a dirty-joke-riddled tall tale whose stakes are raised with every chapter. The reveal in the eighth issue is the biggest yet, and it leaves me wondering if eventually the threats in the book will have to transcend the semi-realistic sleazy LA noir genre to become intergalactic in scope.
Spencer's script is wry and character-driven. One of the two leads prays to God for a favor and apologizes for being out of touch for so long by saying "in Catholic school, they made it pretty clear it was you or masturbation, and I just--I got stuck with the home team, you know?" That is a lot of information about the character concealed within a gag that we didn't previously have before. A rule of thumb for reading a crime story: when a joke advances the plot, that's good writing.
From the wordless sequence depicting Pretzel's origin story that opens the issue to a series of pratfalls as a character tries to climb a fence that's too tall for him, Lieber's art is perfect for this kind of comedy. His figures and facial expressions aren't exaggerated in the least — he plays the characters straight, which makes the physical comedy and the quick stabs in the script land with even more force.
I have to wonder if The Fix might read better in collected trade editions than in single issues: while each issue feels like a contained chapter in a story, it could be easier to retain a sense of continuity when you read a bunch of chapters all at once. But no matter how you take it in, The Fix is a must-read: a funny, nasty, character-driven crime drama that keeps outdoing itself with every twist.