I was going to say all writer Ed Brubaker needed to do to completely tie together all the San Francisco crime eras was a grandfather in a wheelchair in a greenhouse, but Big Sleep’s L.A. Scene of the Crime is all San Francisco, all the time; Brubaker knows what he’s doing too. This issue introduces lead Jack’s old buddy Steve, who’s also a P.I. Steve once gave Jack a tour of Dashiell Hammett’s San Francisco; when Jack became a P.I., Steve followed suit and looped him. Steve gives Jack information from his fancy international detective agency.
It’s a trope going back to Hammett, if not earlier. But it’s a knowing one and well-executed. Michael Lark’s pencils (now with Sean Phillips inks, which I’d forgotten) take their meeting out of time, like private dicks who lose their pretty blonde clients to violence and get big sads about it are eternal. Great colors from James Sinclair too. Phillips’s inks add a moodiness to the issue, although some of the dreariness is due to the circumstances.
The issue opens with Jack going to a murder scene, the motel he’d just left, with his crime scene photographer uncle in tow. The uncle can get Jack information about the case, whereas Jack just pisses off the cops. At least until the detective shows up and Jack tells him all; Jack telling all is going to be a recurring theme in this issue; he doesn’t have any secrets at this point. Other than the actual client being his cop buddy’s mistress.
Or not really his buddy; his relation. Jack goes to question him, goes to question his client, her mother, the hippies from last issue. Only the hippies have left, the mistress is indisposed, her mother’s not interested in Jack’s help, and the cop buddy doesn’t know anything. Brubaker’s got the formula down—visit the various characters, find answers to questions no one’s asked, and then try to piece together how it all fits together. Classic detective novel, just set in nineties San Francisco.
Though there aren’t any computers around so it could be anytime San Francisco, though the city’s hippie history is about to play a significant part in motives and so on.
There is a super icky moment where Jack whines he can’t be a cop because he’s incapable of shooting anyone, but he means it as a bad thing; the copaganda’s strong, so it’ll be interesting to see if Brubaker does any dirty cop tropes.
The first issue was mostly engaging, occasionally too forgiving with the first person narration—Brubaker’s better this issue, with Jack plunging headfirst off the wagon—and a neat variation on a theme. This issue shows Brubaker’s got more up his sleeve than smart homage, and Lark, Phillips, and Sinclair are keeping pace. Scene of the Crime just got really good.