Pine and Merrimac #1 Review: Familiar Detectives Pose a Welcome Invitation to Genre Readers

Pine and Merrimac #1 plays on familiar tropes to deliver an outstanding introduction to a new duo readers will want to spend lots more time with.

Fans of detective novels will recognize the familiar rhythms of exposition that has unfurled from first person narrators ever since Sam Spade first hit the scene in 1930. It's something movies can accomplish in voice-over, albeit with diminishing returns, and comics can do the same with narrative captions, but they never hold the same appeal. Comics are a visual medium afterall and why should readers want to parse out thin boxes of text when large panels loom right behind them? It's this quandary that frames the success of Pine and Merrimac #1 – a debut that provides all of the history and character types genre readers may expect but emphasizes a visual presentation of those elements in an intriguing debut.

The series centers around Linnea and Parker, a married couple who work as private investigators after leaving former careers in policing and professional fighting, respectively; Pine and Merrimac is the name of their business. Tracking down cheating spouses and fraudsters proves much less stressful than investigating homicides and fighting in the octagon. However, the case of a missing girl leads Linnea to break her "no missing persons" rule and accept a dangerous job that will require all of her brains and her husband's brawn to solve.

While there's a familiar symmetry to the pair in their appearance and assets, Pine and Merrimac #1 ensures readers see them as complete characters possessing idiosyncrasies and humor; people worth following as much as the case they're on. Artist Fran Galán provides them both with instantly recognizable silhouettes and easy, expressive acting. Although Parker possesses the broad physicality of a linebacker and appears imposing in every panel he enters, his face tells a different story as it only grows chilly when a threat is required. It's the warmth and comfort found in both figures throughout the issue that makes them so appealing. Their love for one another and interest in their work is immediately evident and defies the simplification of being the smart or tough one.

The first issue makes quick work of introducing the pair as it covers Linnea's motive-producing origins and the pairs romantic story over the course of 5 pages narrated by Linnea. The captions are succinct, but the collaged imagery tracing those words across the page—often in the sepia tones of nostalgia—provide plenty of depth. Before the first issue is a quarter read, it has produced its premise and characters in quick order.

That allows plenty of space to settle readers into their small town status quo before bigger problems arrive. Several brief encounters with potential and former associates reveals their sense of humor, approach to life, and ongoing, middle-class sorts of problems. There are opportunities for both Linnea and Parker to showcase what makes them effective investigators before the stakes are terribly high, and writer Kyle Starks wrings plenty of laughter from these early incidents.

It's a good and seemingly simple life until the case that Pine and Merrimac is set to center upon arrives. The case has all of the good hooks that detective readers expect to find in the first few chapters, including a large conspiracy, the presence of genuine evil, and a personal tie to at least one detective. When the issue provides readers with a cliffhanger to suggest where the story is eventually heading, readers have everything they need to appreciate this excellently composed introduction. 

Where Linnea and Parker's path may lead, what they will discover, and what that journey may uncover about them is all left to be revealed. The questions are enticing, but it's the quality of character work, the stylized and vibrant artwork presenting them, and the deft presentation of these fundamental units in a detective story that promises to keep readers interested month after month. I'm already hoping they get a second case when this one is solved.

Published by Boom Studios

On January 3, 2024

Written by Kyle Starks

Art by Fran Galán

Colors by Fran Galán

Letters by Pat Brosseau

Cover by Fran Galán