4 out of 5
Copernicus Jones is a great character name. And with the added ‘Robot Detective’ tag, and Kevin Warren’s black and white, noir-y art and Matt D. Wilson’s snarky ‘Cus voiceover narration, you know exactly what this comic is.
…But that’s not a bad thing. I mean, it can be: while judging a comic by its cover is a no-no, I do think it’s possible to allow a page or two to give you the vibe, and across the many iterations-on-a-theme that comics execute, there are a healthy percentage of those that make your eyes roll in those pages or two, and you put the book down, wholly assured that there’s nothing new to be found between the covers. The remaining percentage can split a couple different ways: maybe those rare instances where the creators do do something new – not that that’s a guaranteed good or bad thing either – and then those who are able to lean in to all of your expectations, and make it an insanely rewarding, fun read regardless. In a way, that’s a specialized skill beyond making something completely fresh, because you’re subject to all of these “rules” that a reader already has formulated; you don’t have the liberty of writing your own.
Yes: Copernicus Jones is one of these latter rare instances, brought to life by a writer and artist with those very specialized skills, nailing little beats that give the book its personality, and showing a lot of restraint where others would sin and effect those eye-rolls.
It’s all here: robot puns; lots of back talk; the protagonist getting constantly beaten up; splashes of color in the black and white art; an overly twisty narrative; but Wilson and Warren don’t try to present this like it’s the smartest or newest thing over – it’s instead done with an air of been-there-done-that that perfectly vibes with the everyman P.I. type our lead robo represents. And while the sci-fi-infused world of Copernicus definitely has its own operating rules, we’re not subject to exposition dumps to spell it out – it’s rather importantly not necessary to the story, so we get to intuit all of that stuff through context, which is more fun anyway. Even the puns are tastefully done, coming across as legit hardboiled talk relevant to the robo-detective genre – like, yeah, they’re funny, but they also make sense. I love it.
Some of the additional small touches I mention come by way of the art, as informed by story: for example, ‘Cus, who keeps getting in scuffle after scuffle, bears the marks of each beatdown for the entire stretch of the story. While, again, that’s not super unusual – our hero will always have some bandages on their face from their most recent brawl – it’s unexpected when mapped to this humorous spin on the genre, which is sort of the key to the book’s success: it leans toward comedy, but it takes its story and tropes seriously.
…Which includes one of the occasional downsides of the genre: story clutter. Dirty Credits is pretty short – 17ish page chapters – but there are a lot of characters and backstabbings stuffed in that, and it kinda undermines the actual end game of the plot a bit. I was admittedly relying on Wilson’s recaps at the start of each issue to check that I was caught up. There’s a reflection of this in the art as well, with some panels seemingly aiming to capture some important moment (whether directly plot related, or a beat in a fight), and it’s not clear what that important focus is intended to be.
None of this ruins the incredible fun of the series, or takes you out of the world. Copernicus Jones is a book you will know, literally from page one, whether or not you’re down with its particular approach. And the best news is that if you are, it delivers on that the whole way through.