Mister Marenco, I gamble, I drink, I smoke, and I've got a car that runs half the time. I just took out my second mortgage, half my bills are past due, and my mentally retarded brother pulls a steadier income than me.
I own three pairs of shoes, one dress that I'm not ashamed to be seen in, two pairs of jeans, and a collection of T-shirts that say more about my adolescence than I care to remember. I'm thirty-two, single, unattached, and the last time I went on a date the president was white and in his first time.
My word is all I have.
Meet Dex, the sole employee of Stumptown Investigations. She's honest, but she also sells herself a little short. Besides honesty, she's got everything an investigator needs. She might not be a genius, have the snappiest lines, or be a master of kung-fu, but she's got guts and instincts.
Dex has been hired to find the granddaughter of Sue-Lynne, who happens to be the owner of the casino that Dex currently owes almost $18,000. Pretty good timing if you ask me. Charlotte might have run away with a boy, or a girl, or who knows what, but Dex finds it a bit mysterious that she happened to take off with her shampoo but not her Mini Cooper. (Hence the excellent story title, The Case of the Girl Who Took Her Shampoo but Left Her Mini). Before Dex can even build an investigation, she's warned off the case by the creepy Dill and his muscle Whale. The first warning goes unheard, so the second comes with a pair of bullets to the chest.
Just who is Charlotte, and why do the local crime family, the Marencos, keep inserting themselves into the investigation.
I'd love to say that Stumptown, from Oni Press, is my favorite book on the stands. Besides Dex, Greg Rucka has established a compelling cast of supporting characters, with hints of backstory that lends itself well to future stories.
There is Ansel, her high functioning, highly observant, brother who just happens to have Down Syndrome and an addiction to video games. I credit Mr. Rucka for not only creating a character with a development disability, but not making him only about that feature. Ansel is intelligent, caring, and judging from how many people ask him, very well liked. He's a character with a tremendous amount of potential. Along with Ansel comes his job coach/support staff Grey. He's another likable guy, who cares for Ansel almost as much as he is in love with Dex. It's unspoken, but it's there.
As for Dex herself, she's another strong, believable female created by Mr. Rucka, who has made it a niche of his in the fiction world. (Don't believe me, read Batwoman, Wonder Woman, Queen & Country, The Question, as well as the Atticus Kodiak novels or my review of A Fistfull of Rain.) This girl can take a punch with the best of them and retain her femininity. Like any good PI, she's also got some great contacts. There is Tracy, the good cop who can give her the information Dex needs, as well as pick her up at the hospital. And if there is a good cop, there must be a bad, and that is Hoffman. He's got a serious mad on for Dex, most likely because she broke up his marriage. I love that Rucka didn't explain the how or why, as it gives great potential for future stories.
Notice how I keep mentioning future stories? The one reason this is not my favorite book on the stands is because only FOUR issues came out this past year. I realize it's an indy book, and the money isn't great, but damn, I want to see this comic on the shelf every month!
But Matthew Southworth's art is worth the wait. He's quick to admit, in both informative and honest backmatter, that he is a slow artist, and the delays were his fault. It's refreshing to hear an artist admit that, and I'm willing to forgive him in his pursuit of artistic perfection. His storytelling is lovely, and his line/brushwork is realistic and gritty. If I have one complaint about the art, it is the colorist switch of Lee Loughridge for Rico Renzi between issues two and three. Loughridge is one of my favorite colorists, and his muted palette was a perfect addition to Southworth's art. Renzi's choices are a bit to bright for my tastes, and it was noticeably jarring when I re-read all four issues last night.
Stumptown deserves a hardcover collection, which I will pick up as soon as it hits the stores. Hopefully many others will as well, because this is a story that deserves more issues, or possibly a novel.
You put a hand on her...I let weather into your skull.
And for the curious out there, call the number. And check out GregRucka.com.
I'm only adding this because I've been asked a few times, but yeah, I always accept review/preview copies. Who turns down free stuff? Email me at email@example.com for my mailing address. And thanks.
Dan Fleming is the writer/co-creator of Warrior Twenty-Seven, the independant comics anthology. He's been known to bury his nose in books since the earliest of ages, and has been busy writing a crime novel for a few moons. His comic work can be viewed at www.warrior27.thecomicseries.com. He is also one half of the podcasting duo, The Potato League Podcast, which can be found on Podbean. He can be contacted at either firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com