Indie Comic Review: Stumptown #1

Rucka and Southworth are back with the long-anticipated second volume of Stumpown. The real question is: was it worth the wait?

When Mim Bracca, guitar player for the Portland-based rock group Tailhook, returns home from a long tour, she finds not everything made it back with her. Can P.I. Dex Parios track down her missing baby?

There was plenty to like about the first issue of thins new volume, but there were also a few things that didn’t quite sit well for me.

Let’s start with Greg Rucka’s writing. If there is one thing that Rucka does well (and, let’s face it, there is a lot more than just one thing) it is build character through dialogue. He did it brilliantly with Carrie Stetko in Whiteout, and Tara Chace in Queen & Country. He has done it again with Dex Parios in Stumptown, creating a character who is tough as nails on the outside and full of insecurities and hang-ups on the inside. This volume opens with Dex moving in to a new office. `On the outside she is excited, bubbly, and thrilled to be there. However, as soon as her first client falls through, Rucka shows just how thin the veneer really is.

As far as the setup goes, the mystery in volume two is not quite as strong as in volume 1. A missing guitar with nothing but sentimental value inherently has a lot less built in tension than a missing person case. However, it is probably a lot more likely the kind of case a p.i. like Dex would get. It also does not mean that the case does not have some tense moments. There is a showdown late in the book where Dex is able to keep her cool, even when staring down a knife-wielding thug. The dialogue in that scene steals the show!

Where I felt let down in the book was the art. This is not Matt Southworth’s finest work. Volume 1 was fantastic. His work on his graphic novel side-project is stunning. This is just not up to snuff. Add to that the fact that he is using a slightly different inking style this time around, and the art is not as effective. In the first volume of Stumptown, Southworth used a much thicker line when fendering his characters. This gave the folds of their clothes and the curves of their bodies deeper shadows. It gave the world of Stumptown a sense of weight and heft, almost a symbolic look that everyone had some darkness about them. All of that is gone in this book. This time around Southworth uses a much narrower, looser line, and it feels like some of the character of the book is lost.

Also, the coloring in the book feels a bit off. Lee Loughridge colored the first volume, while Rico Renzi handles coloring duties this time around. The coloring issue particularly apparent in a scene involving a group of people who are supposed to be caucasian. However they are colored in such a way that they are pink, bordering on purple. They look like aliens. For a moment I felt I had strayed in to a sci-fi series instead of a mystery. It was an unwelcome distraction from a scene which was ripe with tension and drama.

So Stumptown #1 was not the home run I had hoped. But foundation is solid. The pieces are there. So I will be back for issue #2 to see how it goes. But this time my expectations are a bit lower.

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