STUMPTOWN Volume 1 by Greg Rucka and Matthew Southworth
Greg Rucka’s work in comics and in the novel field owes a lot to crime/detective fiction and he makes no bones about it. In his first Stumptown graphic novel, he adds Dex Parios to the canon of fictional detectives that readers of the genre should get to know.
As Rucka admits in his afterwords, he was a big fan of The Rockford Files. Dex is modeled on that same ne’re do well private eye saddled with family frustrations and burdened with lousy cases that put her in the way of all kinds of danger – including a very lethal crime boss.
On the surface, Dex is working off a casino debt by looking for Charlotte Suppa, granddaughter of the casino owner Dex is in debt to. But the case gets lousy with twists and turns as the Portland, Oregon, based private investigator picks up the trail.
Dex isn’t superhuman (though Rucka is good at writing those too), and she comes with a lot of baggage. Her dimensions on the page aren’t heroic either. She’s just a young woman trying to find her place in the world, no mad kung fu skills, no superpowers, no figure that’s going to turn the heads of fanboys. She’s not even overly intelligent. Best I can figure is that Dex’s chief claim to success is the fact that she just doesn’t give up and sometimes – sometimes – manages to get one step ahead of the bad guys.
The opening of the book is awesome, guaranteeing instant attention on part of the reader as Rucka backtracks to show you what’s going on and how we got to Dex getting shot and dumped in the sound.
Dex has a lot of family and friends, too, but they’ve got their own problems. Brother Ansel has Down’s Syndrome and requires constant attention, but it’s that love that Dex has for her sibling that really captures the heart too. Her buddy Gray doesn’t quite fill out in this book, so I don’t know he is to her except a friend. Detective Darcy is a friend, but the kind that comes with friction and judgment, not an easy friendship to maintain.
Matthew Southworth, the artist, is amazing. I love how he uses the pages to bring in the Portland environs and to telescope action. He has a very realistic/cinematic style that captures visual attention and complements the story very well.
The story is a classic one that won’t throw fans of the genre for long, but it’s fun watching Dex work through it. Since Rucka is also a bestselling novelist, Dex would be an easy character to bring into a book, and I’d be happy to read those as well.