9.01.10 Review

Stumptown #4 (Oni Press): I know from talking to Matthew Southworth that Rico Renzi was brought in as sort of a pinch-hitter due to some extenuating circumstances with the previous colorist. It appears that Southworth even jumped in to color some of his own pages on this issue, but unfortunately the discontinuous “cooks in the kitchen” have yielded some inconsistent results. Had Renzi started the project I might not have noticed the difference in style, but when juxtaposed with the strength of someone like Lee Loughridge, it does show. I don’t want to harp on this issue all day long because it shouldn’t detract unduly from the strengths of the book, so I’ll just end by saying that for my taste, the colors in the final two issues have lacked a sense of visual depth, and appear somewhat flat and lifeless on the page. They also ran to a couple of extremes, with a crucial night scene playing simply dark with no nuance and then some garish reds and yellows toward the end with little variation. The art itself is good though! The problems I had with the art in the last issue have evaporated, and Southworth turns in figure work that doesn’t have any bouts of stiffness and is able to capture the right kind of energy. The facial expressions are emotive and the body language is full of the right intent, capturing the tone of the subject matter very well. Two pages that stuck out for me were the page where Whale punches Dex in the gut and the final page with the inset panels. Those are ambitious layouts! On the scripting side, the very first page is essentially a page full of exposition about cars and guns, picking up from the last few scenes of last issue, probably necessary to catch the audience’s collective memory up since the book has been delayed. I enjoyed the tension between Oscar and his sister, and Oscar and Dex. Mister Marenco has some great lines that offer a tight commentary on the American Dream, about a father wanting more for his children than he had, and the tension that creates between generations. There’s even some nice embedded Catholic guilt about Isabel’s “deviant” ways with other women. One bit I found very interesting was the panel of Dex spilling coffee on herself. This crafty little flourish was not needed from a storytelling perspective, but it does flesh out the character nicely and the tone of the work in general. I was disappointed that we didn't get to see a final scene between Dex and Sue-Lynne that resolved Dex's gambling debt. It kind of felt like a loose thread, perhaps something that got lost in the transition from ongoing title to a "series of mini-series" as the case seems to be now. In many noir thrillers, you expect a dangerous deal as the denouement, and Stumptown doesn’t disappoint in that regard. It’s a test of will and trust between Dex and Mister Marenco, and we ultimately see a father unafraid to do what must be done, and Dex attempting to distance herself from this dangerous world by the end. In his end text piece, Southworth gives us some great insight into his mind and the creative process. He can be a tinkerer and a perfectionist and his piece touches on the fact that you need to be fairly brave and not have an easily bruised ego in order to put a creation out into the world and let it be judged. At first I thought Southworth was being too hard on himself. What artist doesn’t want to continually grow their skill level? It’s a process, a learning curve until the day we die. And any situation you can walk away from having learned about yourself in the process, whether Dex walking away from this case, or Southworth walking away from this first Stumptown story, is an enriching experience. By the end, I was pleased to see the resilience of Southworth’s spirit and that slaving over comics (at times) is exactly where he wants to be. So, good luck to him. I’ll be keeping my eye out for that next project, whether forthcoming issues of Stumptown or something else. While there were a few project management bumps along the way creatively, this was a fun ride overall and a solid introduction into the world of Stumptown. Grade A-.

NOTE: As for other comics this week, you won't be seeing any reviews. I read The Last Days of American Crime #3 in the store and since it wrapped up oh-so predictably, I decided I didn't need to buy it. I wanted to buy Scarlet #2, but of course Sea Donkey didn't get any in, even though three other people were also asking about it. Dumb.


At 3:27 AM, Blogger Matt C said...

No copies of Scarlet #2 in your LCS? Madness!

At 9:14 AM, Blogger Justin said...

Yeah, can you believe it? Though considering the proprietor of my LCS, it's not that surprising...

At 11:40 AM, Blogger Ryan Claytor said...

*knowing sigh*


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