Part of the Comics Experience and IDW Publishing co-publishing joint venture, Rob Anderson and Fernando Melek’s “Creature Cops: Special Varmint Unit” #1 actually kicks off the line of creator-owned adventures and does so with a comic that has an independent vibe yet refined publishing quality. The plot is fairly straightforward procedural as an under-staffed department is pressed into work that further tests and strains its limits.
The details are where Anderson separates this comic from other procedurals. Showcasing some bizarre mix-and-match thoughts, Anderson and Melek give readers the full experience of a handful of bizarre hybrids including a gator-snake, a horned mastiff, a bear-bull, a panda dog and some king rats. Anderson gives readers enough to learn which characters are likeable, which ones have questionable motives and which are just along for the ride or maybe even lined up to be cannon fodder. The interactions aren’t very deep, and “Creature Cops: Special Varmint Unit” #1 contains a B-movie collection of scenes, interactions and settings that would make “Sharknado” proud. All the same, Anderson keeps the story moving and gives the reader plenty to hook into.
Melek’s art is filled with grungy backgrounds and lots of detail, giving this world a used, rough appearance. Some characters gravitate towards being plagued with sameface, but Melek saves them by switching up body types and hairstyles while colorist Juan Romera lends a hand as well. The stars of the book — the hybrid animals — vary from interesting and well-conceived to bizarrely underwhelming. The gator-snake is fun and tricky, handled well as a plot device to move scenery and introduce the reader to characters, but the tiger hounds just look goofy despite their ferocity.
A handy roll call introduces readers to the cast of “Creature Cops: Special Varmint Unit” #1 and the action gets rolling right out of the gate. Some of the bit character moments are intriguing seedlings for stories to grow off of as this series progresses, but the true draw is the bizarre creatures the team encounters. Some of the critters glimpsed here offer promise and excitement, but need a little more room to stretch out. “Creature Cops: Special Varmint Unit” #1 sets the story up and proves that Anderson and Melek have some fun ideas in store; they just need to decide if this is going to be an over-the-top adventure or a procedural with interesting window dressing.