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Monroe and Murphy #1 (review) —“He needs a heart to hang onto”

Writer: Stephen Peeples

Art: Nicolò Arcuti

Independent, 2022

FRIENDS ARE SOMETIMES a big mystery, like a different species. Sometimes in a floating world they actually are a different species.

The first issue of newly released independent strip MONROE & MURPHY gives us a fox boss, a tiger husband, a koala sidekick, and other creatures surrounding a puma private eye as the main character or maybe he is a big dog like a doberman who is right off attacked by an underworld frog no must be a toad a thug toad with a knife who hops out of an alley, gets punched, and hops away. Sharp art by Nicolò Arcuti is made to look like the 1950s on city streets with phone booths, old cars, and fedoras; as if it matters in this crowd to make the place look human.

A reference to Tolkien’s “Mordor” describing a strange rune script on a mysterious card dropped by a mysterious feline on a foggy night sets the date a little. Lord of the Rings was first published complete in 1955. Give a few years for the cop hero to read it in his spare time with no cheap paperback or movie version late nights at the public library and we have maybe 1959, when men still wore hats and vice clung to a city’s night life at least here in mine like mold in the cracks of the daylight’s puritan veneer.

The text by Stephen Peeples is happily minimal in the black-and-white scenery of these pages, only enough to direct the action. The art is “inspired by chiaroscuro” expressive shadows, says a blurb. Rendered by Nicolò Arcuti, the style lays down slick black-and-white contrasts that look like ruby-lith overlays cut with a knife. Details in places scratch out faces, a rotary telephone, rain pooling in the street, a rural-route mailbox leering in the headlights. The results are moody, enveloping.

By the end of the first issue, Monroe and Murphy have not yet met, and at this point I am not sure criminals are going to quake once they get together. One tall, one short, one dull, one flamboyant, they are a misfit match, and I imagine plotwise that is going to give them their edge. They bend reality and I let them I notice due to the comfort of lurking in the shadows watching unobserved the way one stalks another species while rain clatters beyond the brim of one’s hat off a thousand surfaces.

[Editor’s note: this title is available on Amazon – ]