Thursday, July 02, 2009

P.I. Fly: Joey Fly, Private Eye, in Creepy, Crawly Crime by Aaron Reynolds and Neill Numberman

Life in the bug city. It ain't easy. Crime sticks to this city like a one-winged fly on a fifty-cent swatter.

Crime. Invading the lives of innocent bugs just trying to get through the daily grind. Normal everyday bugs just trying to put three feet in front of the others.

No literary archetype has been ripped off more often than that of the hard-boiled detective, his bumbling assistant, and the beautiful dame who comes to his office in need of help.

Aaron Reynolds' and Neil Numberman's comic graphic novel Creepy Crawly Crime (Joey Fly, Private Eye) sticks to every cliche like fly feet to flypaper in this takeoff on the detective film noir.

J. Fly, Private Eye, finds his coffee-fueled reverie shattered by the appearance of Sammy Stingtail, a brash, wise-cracking youngster who talks himself into a job as PI assistant despite the fact that his long stinger makes it nearly impossible to do surveillance and causes chaos behind him wherever he goes.

In typical plot line development, a voluptuous swallowtail breezes in with a problem. Not the sharpest bee in the hive, as Joey puts it, but a fine floozy of a flutterbye, Delilah finally comes out with the reason for her visit--she wants a detective to prove that her friend Gloria the Ladybug has stolen her diamond-studded pencil box. As slowly and methodically as Colombo, J. Fly, Private Eye, sets out to gather evidence, with no help from the inexperienced Sammy, who steps on most of Joey's best lines of interrogation.

The case itself is a bit clunky; there are the usual suspects--the jealous friend and the lying witness, serving mostly to provide opportunities for Reynolds and Numberman to spoof the usual conventions in the hard-boiled genre along the way. Sure, the intended audience won't recognize the sendup of Sam Spade and Spenser, but hey! most of us didn't learn the conventions from the originals anyway, but from Deputy Dog and a hundred other cartoon characters. Still Joey Fly's ruminations in the P.I. style are a lot of fun. Here he is, regretting his impulse to hire Sammy ("This kid is greener than a leaf-bug in a lettuce patch") as he tries to impart the finer points of the detecting business:

You ever have one of those moments when you wonder if having your wings slowly plucked out with tweezers might be less painful than hanging out with your new assistant?

Guess what? I was having one of those moments.

It's a fun first entry in what might, with a bit of plot tweaking, become an engaging series for the elementary and middle school devotee of the graphic story. And Sammy has a little, um, undercover fun for the reader, a list of "secret clues" hidden in the drawings throughout the book:

What are you looking at? The story's over. Well, since you've got so much free time on your hands, see if you can find all these items in the pages of this book. Now hit the road before I send my fly friend here to buzz in your ear and dance all over your lunch. Do you have any idea where his feet have been...?

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