Cosmic Detective Review

By | Monday, September 12, 2022 Leave a Comment
Cosmic Detective is the latest book from Jeff Lemire, Matt Kindt, and David Rubín. It was a Kickstarter campaign they ran back in May 2020 -- which, as you'll recall, was when the pandemic was really getting underway here in the US -- and the books are just about done getting to the original backers. I presume you'll soon be able to pick up copies at conventions and through comic shops and such in the not-to-distant future.

So what is it? They originally described it as "an epic science fiction mystery that asks: when a God is murdered, who solves the crime?" Despite that tagline, though, there's really no religion involved. They're very clear in the book that these "gods" are basically just an alien race that's so advanced relative to our own that they appear to be godlike. Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic, and all that. So who could possibly kill such a creature? That's the task that our unnamed hero has to undertake. The story follows a pretty standard pulp narrative, as the detective talks to his usual informants, gets roughed up by a thug, and generally follows one lead to another. The difference, however, is that there's a very sci-fi bent to the whole thing. Beyond just hover cars and laser pistols, mind you, but it gets into some interdimensional travel headspaces too.

And that's before we actually get to the aliens' "lair" (for lack of a better word). The dark and gritty asthetic of the up-til-now noir setting is replaced by gleaming and unrecognizable alien technology. I caught someone describe it as "Blade Runner Meets Jack Kirby's Eternals" and that's a not-unreasonable comparison. In fact, I repeatedly saw a strong Kirby influence throughout the book, but it was interesting in that Rubín didn't simply ape Kirby's style. It feels very Kirby without looking like someone is copying Jack. Furthermore, as we get deeper into the story, it starts to feel more and more like a Kirby concept. Almost an extension of Kirby's Celestials. And, indeed, in the notes after the story, they sporadically refer to the aliens as Eternals and Deviants. (Although like the protagonists, the aliens are never actually named in the story itself.)

So we've got a Kirby type story and Kirby inspired art, is this just a variation on some of Jack's Fourth World material or something? No, what's equally interesting is that, while it tackles ideas and concepts that feel very much in Jack's wheelhouse, the story unfolds very differently. Jack had a penchant for packing as much story as he could into as few pages as he could; this was a conscious choice on his part to make sure kids who were reading his comics got the most bang for their ten cents! With Cosmic Detective, the story unfolds very slowly. There are a number of lingering establishing shots that allow things to breath quietly as the reader takes in the environments. As this is more of a detective story and not an action thriller, this makes sense; mood is very important here and it's handled expertly.

As far as I can recall, Kirby never really mixed a detective story with aliens, though he did plenty of both individually. If he had tried merging the two genres, I expect we'd still get something radically different than this but I feel confident that he would have liked and appreciated what Lemire, Kindt, and Rubín did here. None of them have the book available on their respective websites yet, and I'm unsure what they'll be asking for it, but it's an excellent read and I'd highly recommend checking it out if/when you're able.
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