Wednesday, November 10, 2010

New Comics Wednesday Week 45 - Stumptown

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


  1. It's so good Paul. It really relies on strong characterization and storytelling instead of gimmicks to hook the reader. And while the investigation isn't the main reason to read the book, it certainly is twisty and compelling.

    Plus, I just got word from the artist that he is hard at work on the next story.

  2. Hi Dan (and Paul and everyone else reading this):

    Just wanted to drop a line and say that while I wasn't responsible for ALL the delays--there were some publishing delays I don't fully understand, and there were a few other things--I was definitely responsible for the lateness of issue four.

    The next batch is being held until we've got the first three of four completed, then we'll start releasing them so that there are no delays.

    Hope everyone will pick it up; we're very proud of the series, and it's great to hear that people like it too.

    Matthew Southworth