Pine & Merrimac #1 is written by Kyle Starks and published by BOOM! Studios. Illustration is by Fran Galán and letters by Pat Brosseau. Main cover art (left) is also by Galán.
Pine & Merrimac #1 is available now, in print and on digital platforms where all good comic books are sold.
On the corner of Pine and Merrimac sits a small, unassuming town… Just a simple place, simple people, and one horrifying secret that could change everything… After a lifetime of witnessing the worst that humanity has to offer, former homicide detective Linnea Kent has decided to put all of that behind her.
Alongside her husband, a former professional MMA fighter and the unofficial brawn to her brains, she’s moved far from the busy city to open up a quiet little detective agency. At first, the simple cases this nook of the world has to offer were exactly what she was looking for, but there’s more to the quaint hamlet than Linnea could have possibly imagined, and something truly sinister pulling the strings…
What a way to kick off 2024 than with a debut issue which gets absolutely everything right. BOOM! Studios latest original, Pine & Merrimac, hails from writer Kyle Stark, the Eisner-nominated writer of I Hate This Place. The detective series cherry picks the best parts of classic noir and contemporary crime procedurals to create a fresh and innovative take on the genre.
Stark painstakingly side-steps tropes to keep this first issue from becoming predictable. The obvious choice would be to start the series with a sinister crime. An inciting incident which would grab the audience before our two detectives begin their investigations. But no. Instead Stark kicks off his original story with a touching scene which instead establishes the relationship between the series’ leads. The series quickly dispels any idea that it is named after this married couple of private eyes. Nope, the detective agency is actually named for the intersection of the two streets where it is located. Our characters are actually Linnea and Parker Kent. A married couple. She a former homicide detective and he a former professional fighter. A murder brought them together. But their mutual distaste of such horrific acts is what has led them back to Linnea’s hometown of Jamesport where the Pine & Merrimac Detective Agency has been established.
I love how Pine & Merrimac really takes its time to establish the bond between Linnea and Parker. There’s a sweetness and a tenderness to their relationship which feels tangible on the page. Often this genre puts mystery above character but that is simply not the case here. This approach is certainly appealing to the Bones fan in me.
On the day in question their first client is a portly man by the name of Mr Powers. Like us he thinks these two are called Pine and Merrimac, other excuse for Stark to make sure we know this isn’t the case. On face value it’s a simple case of a local man who thinks his wife is cheating on him. But actually this is the perfect moment for Linnea to show off her Holmesian skills and for Stark to let us know just how good of a detective she is.
It’s not all hugs and kisses for the couple. A tender moment is broken when an ex-mark of theirs throws faeces at the agency windows. You can’t be a detective without making some enemies. It’s a funny moment but could signal some trouble for the couple down the line. Tonally the moment is exemplary of how Pine & Merrimac is able to balance comedic elements against both its romantic core relationship and its unfolding mystery.
Next to visit the team is a couple desperately searching for their missing daughter, Tabitha. There’s an almost instant tonal shift are Linnea immediately accepts the case despite Parker’s reservations. This isn’t their usual type of case but given its similarities to the disappearance of Linnea’s sister as a child she can’t say no. It leads them on a brief investigation which leads to a local biker gang and a local dive bar. A perfect excuse for Parker to flex his muscles if ever I heard of one.
As things wrap up Stark makes it clear that underneath all of that warmth and love between its leads there’s a much more sinister story to be told. It certainly seems like Pine & Merrimac won’t steer clear of difficult subject matters. Certainly all the elements are there to make this a compelling series going forwards.
Fran Galán brings an equally engaging visual style to the book. Elements of his character designs feel inspired by another of my favourite noirs, Bruce Timm’s Batman: The Animated Series. The angular nature of Linnea’s facial features feels inspired by Timm. That’s where the comparisons end however as Pine & Merrimac is much brighter with much of the story taking place in daylight. There’s a playful mix between the more realist appearance of Linnea and Parker in contrast to the more satirical appearance of Mr Powers and Mrs Byrne. The versatility of both artwork and story is impressive.
A brilliant start to this new original series. A compelling detective story rich in character and drama alike. Thanks to this wonderful creative team I’m already in love with this world and its characters.