Mary Branwell was a rich girl with a nice life until her parents died in a house fire. Now she lives in a strange orphanage that doubles as a police station, with all of the orphans working as police. Can Branwell and her tough-talking new partner Popowski solve her parents' murder?

Aleks Sennwald and Pete Toms' webcomic The Short Con is a gleeful tribute to cop show tropes with an oddball twist. Branwell is a typical child, mourning the deaths of her parents and utterly perplexed by the fact that her fellow orphans are medical examiners, beat cops, and detectives. Weirdest of all is Popowski, a girl in pigtails with a lollipop permanently hanging out of her mouth who talks like a 30-year veteran of the force. But she may just be what Branwell needs—assuming Branwell doesn't succumb to another cop trope and die in the line of duty.

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What makes the comic work so well is that Sennwald and Toms know where to amp up the absurdity of their premise and where to treat their kiddie cops as actual kids. Popowski will rattle off tales of mummies and vampiric condo development schemes, but she still has plenty of age-appropriate trappings—and the artwork helps keep the tone of the comic light even when it deals with death and destruction. And Pops' tough-gal routine is kind of hard to resist. It's easy to understand why Branwell lets herself get caught up in Pops' investigation so quickly, as dangerous as it seems to be.

The Short Con [Study Group Comics]