Review by Frank Plowright
Frankie Mack’s not as fulfilled as he might be. Time was he was a proper police detective working the Crime Realm, but as shown on the sample page, one mistake and that was his career down the pan. He was transferred across a few borders and now works the Nursery Rhyme division. It’s a complicated place containing small fiefdoms, and the Queens and the witches on the verge of open warfare, with all sorts of innocents caught in the middle.
As characterised by Paul Jenkins via the narrative captions, Frankie’s an old school crime noir detective with a smart mouth and a deadbeat attitude, but he’s also got a nose for his job. His beat’s not just the nursery rhyme characters, but plenty of others from out of copyright children’s novels, but he’s hampered by having Simple Simon as his assistant. It may provide many comedy moments, but it doesn’t help with the police work.
What becomes a very dense journey into nursery crimes benefits from Jenkins throwing in a lot of good ideas, such as the news report being everyone gathered around a Punch and Judy show, or Pinnocchio being a dream source for a detective as his nose grows when he lies. A phenomenal amount of characters you’ll instantly know feature in Frankie’s investigations, and they’re all wonderfully drawn by Ramón Bachs, whose cartooning manages to convince that Frankie’s a real character even when he’s chasing the dish that ran away with the spoon. He puts one hell of a lot of work into every panel, the background detail forming a convincing world and his cartoon characters beautifully designed.
For all the thought applied by both creators, Fiction Squad just doesn’t quite gel, and that’s because Jenkins hasn’t got the willpower to leave a clever idea out, irrespective of whether it slows the overall plot down. There’s also an identity toward the end that appears all too similar to Bill Willingham’s Jack of Fables, whereby the single Jack is the person whose experiences are told over several nursery rhymes. Jenkins extrapolates a step further, but there are still similarities. Those issues aside, there’s a fair bit of fun to be had with Fiction Squad if you just go with the flow.