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Comic Book / Copperhead

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There's a new sheriff in town.

The planet Jasper is a remote outpost bordering human and alien civilizations, and the mining town of Copperhead is on its back end. The frontier town is populated by those who couldn't live anywhere else: mostly loners, rejects, criminals, and a healthy number of alien species. And Sheriff Clara Bronson has just arrived.

Copperhead is a Space Western created by writer Jay Faerber and artist Scott Godlewski. It is an ongoing series by Image Comics launched in 2015 to critical and commercial praise. The series focuses on Sheriff Bronson and her deputy Boo navigating the complex racial, political, and criminal networks of the town in classic Western fashion.


This work provides examples of:

  • Action Mom: Clara Bronson's son Zeke is a major factor in her decisionmaking, both before and during her tenure in Copperhead. Though biologically, Clara is Zeke's Aunt.
  • The Alcoholic: Horrifyingly, the best way to find the town doctor is to check the local bar for the drunkest man.
  • Alien Blood: Whatever species the Sewells are, they bleed green.
  • Animal Stampede: Zolo sends a herd of trectorras running at the posse to hold them off his tail.
  • Artificial Human: They were manufactured during the war as killing-machine foot soldiers. After the war they were granted full legal rights as people. Many, including Clara, distrust them since they were literally built for violent ends.
  • Bad-Guy Bar: There's one in Bastion that appears to host a constant, low-intensity barfight.
  • Beauty Is Never Tarnished:
    • Averted. Bronson gets banged up several times, and takes a particularly bloody beating during a fistfight with an assassin in issue #14.
    • Averted again immediately after said assassin is killed, when Clara, still bleeding, gets accosted by Clay and Martineau. In the ensuing scuffle, Clara busts open Martineau's nose as they duke it out.
  • Big Damn Heroes: Bronson and her posse arrive in the nick of time to resolve Budroxifinicus' standoff with Zolo.
  • Bulletproof Vest: Clara wears the same one her predecessor died in. From a gunshot.
  • By the Lights of Their Eyes: Used to reveal the Natives in the Badlands immediately before they attack, probably a low-level glow effect.
  • Category Traitor: Brex considers Boo one. The war matched their species versus humans; the humans won, and now Boo works for them.
  • Clean Up the Town: Clara's objective on arrival. Copperhead isn't exactly a Wretched Hive but it is corrupt and frequently targeted by criminals operating out of the Bastion as well as Natives.
  • Clones Are People, Too: Ishmael is an outlier among the town's artificial humans: he doesn't like working for a boss, living near other people, or warfare (though combat's ok). Bronson attempts a diagnostic of some kind to determine if he's "gone bad" when she first meets him, but the scarring over his eye makes it inconclusive.
  • Cold Sniper: Stoic Ishmael certainly appears to be one. Another artifical human states that they're superior soldiers because they don't let emotions get in the way of the objectives.
  • Company Town: Everyone in town either works for Hickory's mine or works for those employees.
  • Corrupt Hick: Benjamin Hickory, the owner of the copper mine, is clearly accustomed to throwing his weight around with the mayor and sheriff to get special treatment. When Clara makes it clear she's not going to give, he tries to go over her head.
  • Creepy Souvenir: Ishmael has a necklace of what look like teeth. What species they're from is unclear.
  • Cyclops: The Sewells have only one eye in the middle of their foreheads.
  • Damsel in Distress: Martineau is kidnapped by Clay to aid his escape from prison.
  • Deadly Road Trip: Villain version in Zolo's gang. They capture Boo and attack Bronson as well, but after she fights them off the gang retreats. She and her posse pursue them across the rough terrain as they desperately try to reach Bastion before they're all killed off.
  • Death by Falling Over: Gus' fate after Bronson knocks him down the stairs in Thaddeus' house.
  • Deep South: The Sewells are repping: large family with a self-sufficient farmhouse in the middle of nowhwere prone to fistfights and hostile to authority, outsiders, and authoritarian outsiders.
  • Defeat Means Friendship: Clara and Ma Sewell immediately descend into a fistfight on their first meeting. Clara manages to cuff her and throws her in jail for the night. As a result Ma survives the Sewell massacre. She's grudgingly impressed by Clara and Boo's work tracking down the killers. Clara and Ma bury the hatchet and Ma starts babysitting Zeke.
  • Does Not Like Shoes: Boo's species is always seen barefoot, probably because it affords them increased utility from the opposable toe.
  • Domestic Abuse: Clara's first call out is to one at the Sewell home, where Pa is roughing up one of the kids.
  • The Dreaded: Ishmael is able to live outside town only because the Natives are too terrified of him to attack. When they finally do he lives up to his reputation.
  • Due to the Dead: Inverted with artificial humans, who specifically request no acknowledgement or ritual to one of their own who dies. It's probably an outgrowth of their shared nature.
  • Dwindling Party: Villanous version in Zolo's gang after they kidnap Boo. One by one they are killed either by the pursuing posse or Boo himself until Zolo's last stand.
  • Embarrassing Nickname: Zeke trips over Budroxifinicus' name and Clara immediately dubs him Boo. He doesn't care for it.
  • Evil Smells Bad: The whole planet of Jasper smells like rotten eggs to Clara and Zeke on arrival.
  • The Exile: After running up enormous gambling debts and being disowned by his family, Floyd Sewell is kicked out of town. The only place he can safely go is the anarchic Bastion.
  • Extra Eyes: Natives have five symmetrical sliver-shaped eyes.
  • Faked Kidnapping: Clay takes Martineau as a human shield against the guards to aid his escape from prison; turns out she's a willing participant.
  • Fantastic Racism: Boo claims his people aren't allowed responsibility over humans due to the recent war between the species.
  • Fantastic Slurs: "Artie" for artificial humans.
  • Fashionable Asymmetry: Brexinfoyle wears only one shoulderpad and arm guard to protect his dominant arm in combat.
  • Flying Car: Everyone in town uses them. Major transportation is by magnetic levitation train. Handwaved that using levitation technology is somehow cheaper and faster than trying to build and maintain roads.
  • Frontier Doctor: Given Copperhead's species diversity, the town doc Levi Mosley is either incredibly competent or heavily assisted by high tech. He's also the town drunk.
  • The Gambling Addict: Floyd lost everything gambling in town. Then he lost everything gambling outside town. While he's a persona non grata due to his debts, he's an OK guy otherwise: he is genuinely hurt when his mother disowns him and he assists Bronson immediately when he encounters her undercover.
  • Handy Feet: Budroxifinicus' species has three large toes on each foot, one opposable.
  • Happily Adopted: Clara and Zeke are actually aunt and nephew, but latter was an infant and wasn't told about the truth.
  • The Hermit: Ishmael lives outside town largely because he's sick of the Fantastic Racism against artificial humans and doesn't want to work for Hickory.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: An artificial human leaps down to push Cletus clear of the stampede and is immediately crushed to death. His motives are unexamined but could range from selflessness (protect the teenager) to cold logic (protect the hostler).
  • High-Altitude Interrogation: Employed by Boo while hunting down Floyd.
  • Hollywood Law: Hickory calls Clara to recapture his stolen blueprints. Bronson catches the suspect after a high-speed chase, but Hickory claims he's not pressing charges and the suspect goes free. While Copperhead may not be under American jurisprudence, at minimum the fleeing suspect resisted arrest and assaulted an arresting officer. These are crimes that Hickory cannot legally dismiss and that should allow Clara to arrest him.
  • Honor Before Reason:
    • The guards at Clay's prison know that human shield Martineau acknowledged her life would not be protected when she entered the prison, and that Clay is a dangerous felon who will escape and likely do harm to many people if they do not shoot him. Nonetheless they allow him to escape to protect her.
    • Zolo promised their father that he would protect his brother Nestor. He continues to rescue Nestor from himself despite it costing Zolo substantial capital with his own gang over several years. The gang is obviously sick of it and Zolo knows Nestor is a lost cause but a promise is a promise.
  • Human Shield: Clay uses his interviewer Martineau as one to escape prison. The guards yield despite her having signed off her right to protection in order to enter the prison in the first place for exactly this reason.
  • Humanoid Aliens: A number of Copperhead's residents are depicted as these, usually in the background. Of them Budroxifinicus gets the most screen time.
  • Hypercompetent Sidekick: Boo certainly thinks of himself as such, having served as interim sheriff before Clara arrived.
  • I Have No Son!: After his selfish actions result in his family being murdered, Floyd is ejected from his family with this line.
  • I Shall Taunt You: Part of Budroxifinicus's ploy to get free of Zolo's gang is insulting Brexinfoyle into assault that gives him an escape opening.
  • The Infiltration: Bronson launches a very brief one into the Bastion brothel to snag Nestor while he's separated from the gang.
  • Interrupted Intimacy: Clara can't turn off her danger-sense even in the middle of sex with her date. Good thing too, because otherwise they'd have been caught and killed by Zolo's gang.
  • Living Crashpad: Budroxifinicus uses Brexinfoyle as one when he bails out the back of the car in an escape attempt.
  • Local Hangout: Drinking at the Copper Top bar is one of the few things to do in town.
  • Loophole Abuse: The Natives attack a house outside town and massacre everyone inside - but because the house was outside the city limit it doesn't violate the treaty and there are no repercussions.
  • Meaningful Echo: When Zeke complains about Clara being assigned to Copperhead, she says that people need their help. When Clara asks why Zeke left the house, he responds that Annie needed help.
  • Mistaken for Prostitute: Played intentionally by Bronson in the Bastion brothel to get close to Nestor.
  • Mr. Exposition: Thaddeus Luken, local schoolteacher, is more than happy to lecture on any subject that seems relevant.
  • Multi-Armed and Dangerous: Sewells' species has four well-developed arms that give them an extraordinary advantage in any fistfight.
  • My Greatest Failure: For Clara, she shot her own sister to save one of the two truck drivers and taking her infant nephew, Zeke, as her own child.
  • Neck Snap:
    • Budroxifinicus manages to kill Josiah like this when he gets his hands free while held captive by Zolo's gang.
    • How Clara kills Martineau.
  • Non-Action Guy: Thaddeus Luken is completely useless when criminals break into Clara's home.
  • Not Afraid to Die: Hickory's artificial human guards claim they have no emotions, only the objective.
  • Obstructive Bureaucrat: The Mayor's receptionist is a professional dedicated to preventing anyone from meeting the mayor. According to her his schedule is always impossibly crowded and any meeting that makes it to the calendar is subject to abrupt cancellation due to last-minute travel or simple double-booking.
  • Organic Technology: There is a root growing down from the ceiling in Budroxifinicus' house that forms a hanging chair and chandelier.
  • Outlaw Town: The Bastion is an outlaw fortress settlement that seems to follow only two rules: anarchy and kill all the cops.
  • Posse: Played very straight when Bronson goes to rescue her captured deputy. Members include the town badass, a couple of hired guns on loan, and a local kid who's providing the steeds.
  • Psycho Knife Nut: Zolo often menaces with his curved knife. Oddly, the void in its design looks like it would never be able to slide in and out of the matching scabbard.
  • Reassigned to Antarctica: Clara was assigned to Copperhead due to "not having a lot of options". Her superior claims she was a suspect in a murder of a corrupt politician, but he might just have been intimidating Hickory.
  • Rubber-Forehead Aliens: Copperhead is home to an extraordinary variety of nonhumans. Some species like Thaddeus are identifiable by skin color, or unusual ears.
  • The Savage Indian: The Natives are borderline Starfish Aliens who murder anyone caught outside town after dark. No form of communication is available in town though there is apparently a peace treaty that stops them from slaughtering everyone in broad daylight.
  • Shell-Shocked Veteran: Possibly Ishmael, given his physical scars and experience with warfare.
  • The Sheriff: Clara Bronson, new sheriff in town. Boo was acting sheriff for a time after the last one was killed in the line of duty.
  • Shipped in Shackles: After Budroxifinicus' breakout attempt Zolo's gang wraps him in chains and gives him tighter seating.
  • Shoot the Hostage: Gang leader Zolo goes for this when his sibling is held to compel him to stand down.
  • Sociopathic Soldier: The artificial humans straddle types 2 and 3.
    • Hickory's guards make reference to how combat feels good to them since they've been genetically programmed for it; this sounds like the Psychopath.
    • On the other hand they're intellectually aware these emotions were created to serve the ends of their superior officers. They don't really like being cannon fodder in a war never for their own benefit, like the Unwilling Conscript.
  • "Shut Up!" Gunshot: Clara tries one on arrival at the Sewells' domestic abuse call. It doesn't work.
  • Space Western: Frontier town? One employer for everyone? Hardnosed lawbringer? Space cattle? Corrupt local government? Limited access to the larger world? Violent natives just outside town? Checks all around.
  • Spikes of Villainy: Criminal Brexinfoyle wears a spiked shoulderpad and arm guard.
  • Staircase Tumble: Bronson knocks Gus down a one-story flight in Thaddeus' house, breaking Gus' neck.
  • Starfish Language: The Natives' speech occurs in scribbled runes that don't even get speech bubbles.
  • The Stoic: All artificial humans seem to be this. Most of them count it as a combat advantage.
  • Surveillance Drone: Boo has one he uses to survey crime scenes with digital mapping.
  • Talking Your Way Out: Attempted by Budroxifinicus when he's captured by Zolo's gang, primarily by agitating Brexinfoyle into a physical fight that could break him free. It does work briefly.
  • Too Dumb to Live: Nestor believes he's the smartest person in the room, but his plans are always the straightest, dumbest way to pick a fight.
  • Tropey, Come Home: Zeke meets Annie when she's out looking for her dog Hugo in the badlands. Clara finds Hugo at the end of the first arc for one of her few actual successes.
  • Undercover Cop Reveal: After Bronson grabs Nestor's attention in the Bastion brothel she immediately pulls her gun and takes him hostage.
  • The Unpronounceable: Clara and Zeke find Budroxifinicus unpalatable, though no one else seems to mind it.
  • Villainous Valour:
    • Depite Budroxifinicus' escape attempt that resulted in injury to Brexinfoyle, the latter refuses to take it personally and offers a painless end to Boo when it's time to execute him.
    Brex: I take no pleasure in this. You cooperate, I'll make sure it's over quick.
    • Zolo fearlessly faces down the posse sent to kill him knowing he'll only get one shot off. He spends it on his brother, ensuring Nestor won't suffer the justice system.
  • Wounded Gazelle Gambit: Boo is flagged down by a citizen while on patrol. When he gets out to inspect an injured man, several people (including the bait man) pull guns on him.
  • Wretched Hive: The Bastion, the only town farther south than Coppertop. It's inhabited exclusively by criminals in no semblance of order.
  • Zeroth Law Rebellion: Boo has been acting sheriff for some time, so Clara asks that he not undermine her authority in front of the citizens to earn their respect. On their first call she gets into a fistfight and calls for backup, but Boo refuses to respond.
    Boo: Didn't want to undermine your authority.