Friday, April 13, 2012

Review: Fish Police Vol.1

I'm rather curious about the independent comic book scene and how it's evolved over time. Some 1980s titles like Scott McCloud's Zot! and Dave Sim's Cerebus have reputations which continue to create new fans, but so many others have been lost to the dustbin of history. Thus, I decided to give IDW's new Fish Police Vol.1 collection a try, seizing the opportunity to review one of the minor hits of the 80s.

What we have here is a collection of what seem to be the first four Fish Police stories by Steve Moncuse, a tale called "Hairballs." It involves police inspector Gill (seen above on the cover), a fish man in a world of fish people, but he seems to be the only person who finds his reality fairly unplausible. As Gill delves into an investigation pitting him against the crime cartel S.Q.U.I.D., it becomes clear Gill is singularly different from the other characters (and strongly hinted he used to be a human being).

Much of this volume is spent introducing the world of Fish Police, albeit in media res. The more the series reveals about its world, the more questions arise as virtually every character has a secret and these secrets are mostly hinted at. Further, "Hairballs" has no conclusion - the book ends with very little resolved and S.Q.U.I.D.'s plots still in motion.

Fish Police succeeds thanks to Moncuse's sense of humour. Gill's repeated observations of how unlikely their world is are constantly amusing (such as wondering how beer remains in a glass in a water world). There's also a winning series of brief scenes focusing on the prawns who provide S.Q.U.I.D.'s security. Although visually the prawns are built like armoured football players, they're actually very emotionally sensitive to insults and worried about being forced into fights.

The biggest problem with this book is that I have no idea why it exists in the form it does. There is no introduction explaining the history of Fish Police to the curious, nor the story of how IDW came to be reprinting it now (the closest information to be found is what's printed on the back cover). Further, there's no description of what exactly this book is reprinting. It seems to be Fish Police#1-4, but I sure couldn't tell you - not even the indica reveals where these stories first appeared. Finally, being such a slim volume and Fish Police having been wrapped up decades ago, one wonders why IDW didn't simply publish the Complete Fish Police, which seems to be about 24 issues in total. The art of the introduction is lost on most comic book collections these days and the business is poorer for it.

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