Comics Korner: Bodies #2

By travis - August 28, 2014

cover for bodies #2

The threads are beginning to cross as four murders have four different detectives working decades apart to solve the same crime.

Out today from Vertigo is Bodies #2, the murder mystery that spans 160 years and has four detectives trying to solve seemingly the same murder. The series is created and written by Si Spencer, with art by Dean Ormstrom, Phil Winslade, Tula Lotay, and Meghan Hetrick each drawing one of the time periods. It’s probably best if we do like the comic and stop with the explaining and just jump right back into the story.

With the opening panel we hopped a ride with Mr. Peabody and fly back to the year 1890 to find ourselves on Longharvest lane in the midst of Inspector Hillinghead. He reminds us of the body that was found in the last issue, yet it seems no one knows the identity of the dearly departed, so it’s up to the Inspector to use the best forensic technology that 1890 has to offer. I like how Spencer suggests that Hillinghead is ahead of even Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s hero with his knowledge of thumbprint identification. On further look into the victim’s hands, he notices a pattern that is similar to the one that riddled the first issue. We also learn more about Hillinghead’s detective process. At the strong suggestion of one of his fellow Inspectors, Hillinghead follows him down to the lodge for Ladies Night, where all the men from the lodge can explore their most deviant side with an assortment of discreet women of the night. Real highbrow affair, right? Hillinghead has built a rapport with one woman in particular, the rough handed, deep voiced Molly. Hillinghead lives in a time of way less understanding for people of his preferences, but Molly uses her blindfold and expertise to satisfy the Inspector’s urges. Hillinghead also prefers Molly because she’s talented in other fields of study aside anatomy, and expresses a good sense of deductive thinking, thanks to her interest in the stories of Sherlock Holmes. Molly however seems to hide the whole truth when asked about the symbol on the thumbprint. Hillinghead detects this, but doesn’t pay it too much mind. On his walk home he’s ambushed by a shadowy man in top hat and THOK’ed on the back of the head with the butt end of a walking stick. We leave the Inspector laying face down in front of a Pharmacist bearing the same symbol he’s been searching for.

With a turn of the page we jump fifty years to 1940 and watch a very creepy doll float through the air on a parachute. Of course the parachute bears the same symbol that has been chasing us through the series thus far. It’s soon made clear that this is a short dream sequence as we find Inspector Whiteman waking up on a subway platform. Due to the London Blitz, he and a lot of other Londoners found shelter from the bombs down in the London Underground. When he and his Bobby friend make it back topside, they’re met with a scene of devastation. Unfortunately the bombs had exposed the corpse they had found in the first issue, and was now out for public display. Like most dead bodies do, a large crowd was gathering around it. Before Whiteman can make it to the victim, he’s stopped by an intimidating gentleman by the name of Mahoney. Mahoney has traveled from Kilburn in search of his nephew, and apparently the last time he was seen, the nephew stated he had business with the Inspector. Mahoney tries to verbally strong-arm answers from the Inspector, but the Whiteman is unaffected, informing Mahoney that he could shoot him down, plant a gun, and prove to everyone that Mahoney was a threat. Before violence erupts between the two men, the Inspector’s attention is once again pulled back towards the body. Once Mahoney sees the corpse, it doesn’t take long for him to recognize his kin. Luckily for the Inspector, a wonderful gift has fallen from the sky. Laying slightly on top of the dead body is the barely alive body of a german pilot that parachuted down, and just earned himself the newly established prime suspect title.

On the next page we’re launched a century into the future, and enter the bizarre world of Detective Maplewood. She’s seen walking down a London street with her friend Bounce. Remember Bounce? She’s the girl with the rubber ball that was standing in a pool of blood in the last issue. Maplewood makes you think that they’ve been companions for a long time, but Bounce reminds us they only met six hours ago. Oh, and Maplewood got a hat, which she loves. The two decide that the pulsewave feels strong today, and that they should seek shelter. Regrettably, the body that Maplewood found, and dragged back to her office, is currently being eaten by a fine young cannibal. Right before he attacks the two women, he’s seen saying things from Hillinghead’s story while chomping on a human carcass. Maplewood tries to talk, but it does little good. The small naked cannibal boy pounces at Maplewood, but Bounce reacts quickly and throws her ball into the boy’s face. Startled and confused, the boy starts running for a window. The girls think he’ll stop once he gets there, but cannibal boy has other plans. He crashes through the window and falls a good distance to the street below. He’s presumed dead, but we don’t actually see the body. The two women’s attention is pulled back to their original victim, and Bounce begins her autopsy by tasting some of the blood and noticing the presence of psychotropics. Maplewood is assigned the job of going to find a pipette for Bounce, but finds herself in a room surrounded by shiny machines covered in the KYAL mark that was seen in the last book too. One small note of criticism here, the letters seemed too forced into this scene and stand out too much, to the point where it took me out of the story. This could have been done on purpose to make sure they were prominent, but I think this could have been achieved in not such a heavy handed way. Anyway, we leave Maplewood telling us that these aren’t just shiny machines, they’re also murder machines.

Lastly, we finish this issue in present day, alongside the Detective Superintendent Hasan. When we first catch up with the Detective, she can be seen having coffee with her partner Barber and talking about their case. I like how Spencer chose to be outright with how Hasan identifies herself, and bluntly points out that she is on a pork and alcohol free diet and proudly wears her hijab while in public. There’s definitely some sexual tension between these two characters, which Hasan chooses not to explore tonight. The two part ways and Hasan gets home to her couch where she can comfortably crack this case in the company of her cable box. It should come as no surprise that Hasan prefers watching documentaries on forensics while she works, and the show she’s watching is trying to solve a three-thousand year old murder, but her attention isn’t really on the tv. She remembers that nobody else knew about the mark burnt into the victim’s arm and determines that the force has a leak. Her and Barber meet up the following morning and speculate some names of possible informants. The conversation progresses as they make their way towards the office, and Hasan reminds us how hard it can be for someone that is different. Like a having a Muslim detective in a London environment that fears the violent stereotypes that come with the territory. Once through the crowd of protesters blocking the entrance to the police station, the two start to part ways, but not before making dinner plans for later that night. We fast forward through the day and find ourselves back in Hasan’s apartment just as Barber shows up. The two plan on finishing the show Hasan started the night before. As the issue comes to a close, we’re left with a startled Barber pointing at the screen. It looks like this murder mystery from three-thousand years ago looks pretty similar to the one they’re trying to solve today.

It’s pretty clear that Spencer has put some serious thought into his Bodies story. The four time periods are fun to explore, and I’m really enjoying spending a little time with each artist as we examine this case throughout time. I’m finding this mystery to be magnetic, and love how the pieces are slowly building towards some great reveal. My guess is we still have some time before Spencer lets us in on too much, especially seeing how we still have six issues to traverse before reaching the conclusion. In any event I’m here for the duration and look forward to finding out more.

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