Disclaimer from the reviewer: I am not, nor have ever been a mystery comic’s reader. This is not a genre that I am entirely familiar with and thus am providing you with my opinion strictly based on what I feel makes a good story. She Died in Terrebonne feels like a cut and dry standard mystery comic, by which I mean to say, it has its ups and downs. While the mystery of a young girl's death is paced incredibly well, the reveals and plot points of the mystery itself were lackluster. From the mystery stories that I have consumed, one of the elements that I have always loved about them is the ambiguity of the cast and the reader’s inability to decipher who is exactly on whose side. With Terrebonne though, and this could be due in part of the size of the cast. The motivations of the characters that we are introduced to came off as clear and simple; who is a bad guy and who is a good guy is stated from the start. This was an issue I had with the book all around. Church’s characters were not complex enough. Rich back stories and other elements were hinted at but never fully explored. The writing wasn't bad at all, it just felt thin for me.
However, it should be noted that the main character is certainly worth talking about. Sam Kimimura is a very standard noir character, complete with a bad attitude, penchant for hard liquor, hot woman and tough scarps, which all works but the most interesting thing about him, is his race and the way that Church utilizes it within the confines of the story. Kimimura is an American detective of Japanese descent, not a man who came from overseas or really a man who owns that part of his heritage, which is an important distinction to make. He’s not a master of Kung Fu or user of the mystic arts, just a normal guy from a normal home, yet his race makes such a large impact on the people of the small Oregon town, that he becomes so much more of an outsider than a detective investigating the death of a poor little rich girl could ever be. That minute detail, towards the beginning of the book, really drove the character home for me.
From an artistic perspective, She Died in Terrebonne is a great piece of work. T.J. Kirsch’s style is remnant of Daniel Clowes, with very complex backgrounds and realistic, expressive characters. Kirsch’s style feels very action-oriented, with the characters and story constantly in motion. There is no downtime for Kimimura, going from escaping his own kidnapping to a rather tense breakfast with the town sheriff; Kirsch keeps the book flowing.
All in all, I enjoyed this book but I didn’t love it. Maybe it was the length but I didn’t feel that, as a reader, I had enough time to soak in the environment, characters or impact of the mystery as a whole, which made the elements of the reveal at the end rather meaningless to me. I like Sam Kimimura as a character and would love to see an expanded history on him and his past. And considering the story is billed as "A Sam Kimimura Mystery" I high hopes that we will get to see more of him. But as a stand-alone story, this particular one isn’t one I would recommend for mystery fans.
TL;DR: She Died in Terrebonne is a mystery comic that misses more than it hits. Despite great action-packed art, the lack of complexity within the characters and short length of the story lead to a simple, easy to understand outcome that ultimately left this reader wanting more.
She Died in Terribonne is written by Kevin Church with art by T.J. Kirsch. Originally published online through Agreeable Comics, you can still read it online or, purchase a physical copy through Nan Bu Nan Publishing.