Vinegar Teeth, Issue #2
Damon Gentry (writer), Troy Nixey (writer, artist, letterer), Guy Major (colorist), Michelle Madsen (colorist, page 22)
Turner and Hooch; Riggs and Murtaugh; Kennex and Dorian—the buddy cop list is lengthy, its history robust. Now Dark Horse attempts to add to that legacy with Vinegar Teeth’s Buckle and, well, Vinegar Teeth in a tale that is Lovecraft meets The Maltese Falcon with an underground kick.
Detective Buckle is a cantankerous veteran of the Brick City police force, partnered with earnest rookie (to Earth and policing) alien Vinegar Teeth in issue one. Issue two opens with Buckle in court testifying as to why he arrested three people, but only booked one (among a litany of other issues). After that, the horrody of errors is on as Vinegar Teeth tries to make amends for eating two suspects and Buckle tries to drink away his woes.
Damon Gentry and Troy Nixey’s noir detective setting marries nicely with the underground comix vibe of Nixey’s art. Vinegar Teeth is unsettlingly blobby, while Buckle wobbles his way from panel to panel in varying states of inebriation. Guy Major’s nearly one-note color palette creates stark contrast with Vinegar Teeth’s intestine-like appendages and the occasional river of viscous red blood and fiery yellow-orange explosion. I also appreciated Nixey’s lettering choices, because a single glance makes clear whether you’re “hearing” Vinegar Teeth, Buckle, or one of Brick City’s other occupants. As a bonus, Michelle Madsen takes the reader to another plane of existence with nothing but an alternate color scheme.
What I found difficult was giving a flying flip about the fate of the obnoxious Buckle. The man is a shitty detective and a crusty human being who treats his fellow cops like garbage and his new partner like steaming refuse. (That said, a new partner with no actual police training? Definitely a nightmare, but the boss’s fault, not the partner’s.) When I’d just as soon see one protagonist eaten by his partner as anything else, it’s a struggle to enjoy the comic.
To me, for a buddy cop pairing to work, each side needs to better the other. Dorian assists Kennex in shedding bitter preconceptions about androids, even as Kennex teaches him what it means to be human. Riggs helps Murtaugh save his family, while Murtaugh gives Riggs new purpose in life. Hooch essentially solves his master’s murder for Turner, and Turner … Okay, this one is basically just Hooch being a Good Boy.
Regardless, that symbiotic relationship doesn’t exist yet in Vinegar Teeth, and I enjoyed the story less for its absence. Buckle is an unrepentant asshole with a drinking problem and poor judgment. Vinegar Teeth knows exactly nothing about being a police officer, and he ATE A COUPLE OF SUSPECTS. I feel like that’s probably an unconstitutional abridgment of their right to due process.
Hopefully the final two issues of Vinegar Teeth explore their relationship in a bit more depth. Alternatively, Buckle might always be an asshole and Vinegar Teeth might never not be accidentally murderous. If the latter occurs, however, I’m not sure I buy them as buddy cops so much as two walking tropes thrown together to look like buddy cops.