11.04.09 Reviews (Part 2)

Stumptown #1 (Oni Press): Greg Rucka’s return to creator owned comics was a long time in the making, but certainly worth the wait. This time out, his partner in crime is artist Matthew Southworth, whose art looks most reminiscent of Michael Gaydos’ work on Alias. Particularly in the facial features of the female protagonist, there’s more than a little of the Jessica Jones vibe happening, but what differentiates his style is the slightly sketchier backgrounds and looser inks. The art is a success (thanks in part to colorist Lee Loughridge), capturing the tone of the series, but with room to still grow and evolve as the series progresses. I was sold early on, with that first two page spread that unfolded, the double-tap invading the silence, and opening up the Stumptown world to us, inviting us into a cold, dark, mysterious place. Rucka’s penchant for damaged or flawed, but certainly capable, female leads comes on strong, and it’s like a breath of fresh air in the predominantly male field of both comic book making and PI work. Rich details in the dialogue, from the relatively simple ring of a craps table: “seven out!” or “new shooter coming out” to the intricate references to the Mara Salvatrucha crime gang underscore Rucka’s ability to research and authenticate his tales. And he doesn’t stop there. The inquiries about Ansel, the very nature of his character, establish the world quickly in terms of the motivators and values of our lead character without an ounce of exposition or insulting of the reader’s intelligence. The speech patterns of Sue-Lynne make her an immensely charismatic, likable, and dangerous character, without anyone ever needing to comment to that effect. Dex picking up on the dubious nature of “maybe with a boy” is all we need to know about her own sexuality, without Rucka having to spell out a firm stance one way or another. The narrative is non-linear, with flashbacks filling in the recent prologue, all leading to an interesting twist of a proposition that quickly complicates and begs so many questions. Top that off with a twisty ending that functions on two levels considering what we’ve already seen and were led to believe. Toward the end of the issue, I loved little flourishes like pausing for a beat to emphasize the revelation, and then the wonderful line “you seen my vest?” along with the pose in the doorway that accompanies it. There is no fanfare, no boisterous excitement, but your heart sinks in that quiet little moment with the uneasy anticipation of what could come. Like the best high art, it pulls the most emotion out of the audience with the most minimalistic and elegant effort. One very minor quibble, Intel HQ is actually in Santa Clara, CA – down the street from my old employer Cisco Systems in Silicon Valley. Not sure if Rucka just brain-farted this or had them confused with another tech company. If you were to combine the detail obsessiveness and procedural lingo of Queen & Country with the somber and moody artistic style of Alias, and then threw in some of the popular crime noir elements from Brubaker’s Criminal, yeah, you know what you’d have. You’d have an authentic series opener. You’d have Rucka and Southworth making their intentions clear. You’d have Oni Press with another hit on their hands. You’d have Stumptown. Grade A.


At 2:28 PM, Blogger Matt C said...

Dead on with your Stumptown review their. Really impressive debut.

At 9:48 AM, Blogger Justin said...

Thanks, Matt. This was a pleasant suprise. I thought I was all crime noir'd out, but there might still be some legs in it!


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