Although short, coming in at a brief 55 pages or so, Copperhead is an excellent debut for what looks to be a fantastic series. Weaving ‘Western cliches’ of sheriff, doctor, town drunk, malcontent mine workers, and smart mouthed deputy with a sci fi setting could be very hit or miss. But in this instance, snappy dialogue combined with fascinating characters make the fairly typical story much more nuanced and intriguing. I found I couldn’t wait to read the next book in the series as soon as I finished this one.
Story: Clara Bronson (likely named after Charles in homage), is a no-nonsense woman who takes her young son to an outpost world. She’s got a past and ‘reasons’ why she’s taking the sheriff post in that po-dunk mining town on a backwater planet. But she’s barely off the mag lev train when there’s a fight and then a massacre. It all centers around the Sewell family – and suddenly her sleepy job is going to become much more complicated than she could have ever foreseen.
Stylistically, the character art really works here. With a vast cast of humans and aliens, the story is make or break on the look alone. Here, the aliens are very familiar looking – and yet still and don’t look like warmed-over rehashes of the Star Wars Cantina. That adherence to traditional sci fi complements a story that is an nod to typical Westerns. It makes the story both familiar and yet also unique but without being trite or a rehash. Even the outfits are very well thought out – from Clara’s sci fi re-imagining of an 1880s travel dress to the arms and armament of an outpost settlement. It all makes sense without feeling overstylized. The art complements but doesn’t usurp the story.
The story moves at a swift pace and quickly escalates from a simple premise of breaking up a domestic squabble. There are some excellent bon mots in here and in later volumes, subtly winking at the Western cliches of bad guy and hero but without ruining the experience. It takes a deft hand to merge genres, poke fun at them, but also create an engaging story. From antihero(ine) to fat cat mine boss, Copperhead gets it all very right.
Although the volumes are short, I am greatly looking forward to continuing the read. Reviewed from an advance reader copy provided by the publish