If Frank Miller wrote a comic book adaptation of Paddington Bear, it would still be nowhere near like Alex Zalben’s Detective Honeybear. But is there anything more to this first issue than just the immense cuteness of it all?
Issue #1, The Case of the Curious Cap, sees our fluffy, sandwich-nibbling hero as he attempts to uncover how John Doe was murdered. What follows is a brief tale of murder, deceit, lies, and accusations, all wrapped up in the snuggley exterior of Detective Honeybear himself. Throughout the issue, his excuses for questioning suspects, visiting crime scenes and collecting evidence all boils down to just how adorable this guys is. If Nero Wolfe was a teddy bear, he might be something like Honeybear.
As I’ve said, the story itself is short and easily readable, spanning only thirteen pages, while the artwork (drawn by Josh Kenfield) is reminiscent of a soft Sin City. No sharply drawn cities or characters here, everything is far too fluffy, yet the characters are still heavily caricatured. The detectives have finely-chiselled jaws and oversized heads (Chief of Police Dannon O’Neil in particular looks like Humpty Dumpty after a McDonalds’ binge), while the suspects are a mixture of monstrous-sizes and frail, stick-like personas.
But in sheer irony, the only character who isn’t caricatured (at least in appearance) is Detective Honeybear himself. Sure, he’s wearing the stereotypical brown trench coat and soggy trilby that only detectives can wear, but he’s without a mouth, beady-eyed and nosed, no fingers or toes (how exactly he manages to hold a tape measure or a sandwich only makes him more endearing), short, and coloured in a mixture of warm browns. He’s exactly what you’d expect a teddy bear to look like. Plus, he can’t pronounce his ‘r’s or ‘l’s. Awww much?
And Honeybear is the only character in colour, both adding to his adorableness and the noir-feel of the remainder of the comic. It fuses black and white into a fine mixture of light and shade, heightening the crime’s playful feel. The mixture of the cute teddy bear detective and the noir crime story is perhaps best exampled on the eleventh page, where Honeybear and Detective Chance are about to burst into the murder suspect’s flat.
The third panel shows Honeybear’s expressionless face, perfectly shadowed, with a solitary bead of sweat dribbling down his face past that beady nose. You just want to cuddle the life out of him right there.
Detective Honeybear and The Case of the Curious Cap is a sweetly entertaining piece of pulp parody. Very rarely does a character come along with such a blank face that makes you cheer for every piece of detective work he infuriates his superiors with. The shortness of the story only adds to the immediacy of Honeybear’s endearing personality. After all, how can you not root for an innocent teddy bear solving crimes with such child-like simplicity?
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