It’s Like “The Sixth Sense” Meets “Unbreakable,” Only More Derisive

NBC’s Raines episode 4, “Stone Cold” (viewable free online right now) leads the detective to investigate the murder of a kid who’s studying comics in college.

Raines says he didn’t know people could study comics in college, and the victim’s girlfriend explains that he was studying perceptual psychology and color theory, defensively insisting that it was hard work. She then goes on to explain that he was working on a superhero called “Payback” who eats toxic waste to live and who is getting revenge for his murdered family. She also explains that the victim’s best friend is a former comic creator who owns the local comic store, Geek Farm. At the store, Raines sees employees peevishly explaining that removing comics from the bags to read them reduces their value, and he overhears the owner relay to a phone caller, “Tell him that if he comes in it costs more because I have to look at his big fat face.” The victim’s friends include a bunch of stoners with a PSP. To get an expert opinion on comic collecting, the detective visits a guy who lives with his mother, recognizes the price guide value of a comic at first glance, and counts the number of times Raines insults him. He refers to the comic book store owner as “a jedi level nerd” who would “never go to the dark side” of selling forged comics. The vicim turns out to have been killed by fantasy weaponry sold by the comic store. The murderer instructed a friend to dump the murder weapon, but the friend kept it because “it’s a collectible, man!” We also get a bonus shot of the detective playing a collectible card game which completely baffles him. Really, the episode is mostly about how the victim is killed for his involvement with drug dealing.

Between the line about color theory and the first mention of Payback, I kind of expected this to go in a different direction—maybe something about Will Eisner, Chris Ware, Scott McCloud, or a dozen other names that come to mind when you think about the phrase “sequential art.” In the end, though, it unaffectionately reproduces a bunch of stereotypes, with a cursory nod to the “comics as art” camp with a gallery-style showing (in Geek Farm) of the victim’s drawings at the end. I have been getting the impression that such portrayals of comics fans in popular media are less common than they used to be, though I guess they haven’t disappeared entirely.

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