Longtime fan of comic books and their various adaptations. Aspiring writer who works in advertising for nonce.
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We’ve seen what happens when you mix brilliant but grumpy detectives with wide-eyed and innocent sidekicks – plenty of Sherlock Holmes adaptations have danced to that familiar tune. But what happens when you mix a wide-eyed and frankly terrible detective with a brilliant but grumpy sidekick? That’s what author Tom Hoefner aims to show us in his quirky collection The Unlikely Adventures of Race & Cookie McCloud. The results, as you can imagine, are both heart-warming and hilarious.
Race McCloud is the mediocre private eye and beleaguered protagonist of the novel, who finds himself tasked with caring for his perfect fifteen-year old niece Cookie, while his more glamorous relatives engage in dangerous adventures. Cookie isn’t perfect in the sense of having no flaws, of course. She’s literally an agent-in-training for the top secret Perfect organization, where the best and brightest of the nation learn to keep secrets and destroy enemies. Every single member of the McCloud family is a proud part of the agency… Except, of course, our very own Race. The catch is that something is rotten in the core of Project Perfect and, with each McCloud relative mysteriously out of commission, it’s up to the unlikely team ever to solve the case.
“You just can’t be a real person,” Cookie tells Race early on, and she’s right. But in a fantastical story such as this one, that’s part of the fun.
He’s a wacky man with some hidden – and I mean very hidden depths – but he fits into his surroundings and serves as an audience surrogate, as it’s easy to imagine that we’d be just as out of place as he is in such an oddball situation. Race’s early failures are part of what makes him so relatable and his story so charming. Not everyone can be the best at everything, or even at anything, and yet Race manages to be a good person and great character despite his own shortcomings. Though he may be inherently average, extraordinary circumstances push him to be heroic and he rises to the occasion. He can’t do alone, of course, or he’d probably end up dead. Cookie McCloud starts off unwilling to cooperate with her tragically unfit uncle, but she soon learns that no matter how brilliant she is, she needs help to save the day. Thankfully, there’s also Westside City’s very own superhero to lend a hand: the very aptly named Green Suit Jacket Man.
The first volume of Race & Cookie is comprised of three fast-paced novellas which run the gamut from spy action thriller to sci-fi fantasy romp and back without feeling overstuffed or giving a reader whiplash. The author accomplishes this with his deft mastery of tone, as well as with the help of a strong narrative voice directing the flow of the story and running cheeky commentary throughout. The author’s wit shines through in all these asides, as well as in the creation of the idiosyncratic characters that inhabit the world.
Speaking of the world, it’s the world-building that’s most commendable in this tale. Westside City and all the other exotic locations in the story are both alien and familiar, and that’s due to the descriptive powers of Tom Hoefner.
I will certainly not be quick to forget that
If something must be singled out as a weakness in the story, it would be the editing. The pace of the book isn’t a big problem, as events build quickly and cliffhangers are resolved without a frustrating wait. Instead, it’s little details that get lost in the shuffle, or even some questionable grammatical choices that undermine the overall strength of the author’s voice. I’m left wondering, for example, if “office-slash-apartment” is the agreed upon term in Westside City for Race’s living situation or if it was a case of the editor not providing synonyms. That aside, Race & Cookie is a fun ride with a satisfying enough conclusion that still leaves you excited for more. Once you’ve read the first volume, you can follow updates on the author’s blog here.
Here’s hoping there’s a Volume 2 out soon!
Tatiana Hullender is a Contributor to ComiConverse. Follow her on Twitter: @MyrcellasEar
A fun crossover between spy action thriller and sci-fi fantasy that avoids feeling overstuffed due to its light and breezy tone.