Paige and Henry find out that their "adopted" baby is the biological son of the youngest member of the Mercer Crime family. They don't want to give the baby to the father, at least not if he's involved in his family's criminal past. So Paige conjures a private detective, Richard Quinn, from an old pulp novel to investigate. He comes from the book into the real world in black and white (with an attitude to match), so Paige has to use makeup to make him presentable.
Quinn and Paige break into the older Mercer's office, but find nothing on his computers and the Mercers catch them in the office, but let them go. Quinn and Paige catch the younger Mercer (Henry Jr.'s biological father) outside the office and Quinn sets him up on a date with Paige. Before the date they head back to the manor, where the attic is now black and white (and it's spreading). Paige gets Phoebe and Piper to agree to let Quinn stay to help her out for the night, but then they have to send him back.
Paige shows up for the date, where Christopher shows off artwork of his father's first laundered bill and a tattoo with a mark for each person he's "disappeared". She drugs his drink, and he passes out, giving Paige the opportunity to call Quinn. He breaks into the wall safe (hidden behind the art, obviously), and takes a flash drive, which he downloads to a laptop. Christopher wakes up, Paige blows him off and heads back to the manor, where SHE is now in black and white.
Quinn, meanwhile, hasn't gone to the cops with the evidence, and calls Paige to make a deal: he wants to stay in the "real" world permanently, and if Paige makes that happen, he'll give her the computer. She tells him to meet them at the manor in an hour, then tells her sisters she has a plan. Quinn arrives and heads to the attic. Paige, back in color, casts the spell, and Quinn wipes the makeup off, but is still in color. Satisfied that it worked, he hands over the laptop, at which point black and white Paige emerges and un-glamours Henry, who was pretending to be Paige. Because Henry isn't magic, the spell didn't work, and Paige uses a potion to send an un-glamoured, black & white Quinn back into the book.
With the evidence from the laptop, the police will be able send the Mercers away for life, giving Paige and Henry custody of Henry Jr. The End.
Oh, but wait, there's more...
In a one-page epilogue, Paige says she's happy Henry Jr., a mortal child, will have a mortal role model in Henry. But he blasts his crib, freezing everything in there (like ice freeze, not Piper-style molecular freeze). Baby hi-jinx!
So far, the Charmed comics have followed a pretty predictable pattern: arc-one shot-arc-one shot-arc-one shot. The first one shot was Phoebe-centric, the second focused on Piper, and now Paige gets her time to shine.
Paige-centric episodes of the show always tended to have a lighter quality to them, and this issue keeps that tone. Obviously the stakes are high, with the safety of a child being the driving force behind Paige's actions, but she and Quinn have some nice banter, keeping things lighthearted.
With Quinn, Paul Ruditis does a good job capturing the feel of an old Bogart-style gumshoe without venturing too far into parody-ville. The character could have easily gotten out of control. Instead, the old-timey stuff is pretty much confined to the yellow voice-over boxes, where you can here the character's voice without it dominating the storyline.
In particular, I really liked two things about this issue in terms of it being part of the larger "Charmed" universe. The first was the reference to "personal gain" with a spell, which hadn't come up much in the comic. It's not just a callback to the series, but a callback to Paige's first experience with spell-casting (and, just like then, this one backfires on her).
I also enjoyed Paige's transformation to black and white, if only because it'd been awhile since a Charmed One underwent some kind of crazy accidental transformation (Leo's wings don't count -- he's not a Charmed One). Sure, black and white isn't as crazy as a goddess or a mermaid or a superhero, but it's something.
I'm recusing myself from reviewing this month's art in detail, because it's mine. IT'S ALL MINE!
[In all seriousness, I purchased all the original art from the issue from artist Tess Fowler, so obviously I adore her work. I will say Mike Spicer's color work on this issue really brings it to life, but otherwise it's not really fair for me to comment on the artwork, since I've pretty much reviewed it with my wallet.]
I will comment on the cover to say it's amazing. David Seidman delivers beautiful images every month for this book, and this issue is no exception. Styled like the cover from an old-school detective novel -- complete with cheesy tagline and price shown in cents -- the cover tells you everything you need to know heading into the issue in one quick glance. Paige looks striking in that red dress; it's easily her best cover of the series. And as an added bonus, the cover of the issue matches the cover of the novel Paige uses inside the issue.
I know there will be fans that want to get into the next arc as quickly as possible, but this was a nice buffer issue between all the Prue drama and whatever is coming next. Plus, that epilogue is tantalizing.
Score: 4.5 out of 5
Previous Issue#18, Four's Company
#20, The Old Witcheroo