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Stumptown #1

Posted by Luke Brown On November - 2 - 2009

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Greg Rucka’s new creator-owned comic Stumptown arrives in stores this week. We got an early look at Oni’s latest new series, and from the looks of things, they’re going to have another hit on their hands.

Picture 1

Stumptown #1
Writer: Greg Rucka
Artist: Matthew Southworth
Colors: Lee Loughridge

It’s no mystery that Greg Rucka loves a female protagonist. Whether it’s Tara Chace, Katherine Kane, Carrie Stetko, Wonder Woman, or Renee Montoya, there’s no doubt Rucka doesn’t write women as if they’re dolled up men; he writes fully realized characters that are smart, strong, and believable. Returning to creator-owned work for the first time since the conclusion of the amazing Queen and Country, Greg and artist Matthew Southworth introduce us to the world of Stumptown, and a female PI named Dex, who might just be the best character Rucka’s ever written.

I’ve been a huge fan of Greg Rucka since being turned on to his Atticus Kodiak novels a few years ago, and have since made it a point to read whatever he’s writing, be it superheroes, murder mysteries, or international espionage. With Stumptown, Rucka steps back from his current workload of capes and cowls to the real world setting of Portland, Oregon, and regular human characters. The book stars Dex, a private investigator with a gambling problem, who is given the chance to clear her debt at a local casino by finding a missing person. Of course, as you can see from the preview pages on display, not everything goes according to plan during Dex’s investigation. The book is rife with character moments that give readers an idea of just what kind of person Dex is almost immediately, and is one of the primary reasons why Stumptown is so enjoyable.

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Whether she’s smart-mouthing locals, dealing with her handicapped brother, or arguing about car repairs, not a single panel is wasted in creating a lead the reader can relate to. Honestly, aside from her wonderful burden of a name, Dex is the most real person I think Rucka’s ever written. Even his other non-superhero characters all have some air of the fantastic to them. Tara Chace is a tremendous woman, but I in no way expect a single person to live through the things she has. That doesn’t mean those stories aren’t great (they are), it’s just that Tara is much more Wonder Woman than she is Dex Parios. Rucka’s story also sets up many of the major players the way a Chandler or Hammet novel would, leaving the reader guessing at every turn of the page. By the time you reach the end of this first issue, you’ll be just as in the dark as Dex is, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. It’s tough to keep a mystery interesting following the comic format, but thankfully Rucka is among the counted few who can progress a story, develop character, and keep readers on their toes each and every issue.

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Bringing everything together artistically is newcomer Matthew Southworth. After a few pages, it’s impossible not to compare his style to Michael Lark’s. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. In fact, Southworth’s illustrations are the perfect fit for a story like this. His linework is grainy, but characters all have a unique look to them. His expressions and body language are excellent, as are his backgrounds. It’s apparent that Portland will play as important a role in this book as the various locales of Local did in their respective stories. The amount of darkness shrouding the more populated areas in which Dex goes about her business is almost claustrophobic, letting the reader know that the everyday world is beating down on her. Compare that to the openness of the millionaire’s estate she visits, and you get an idea of how the scenery can be used in a comic much the same way it is in film to elaborate on mood and tone, versus simply just existing in the background. Southworth has shown with this first issue that he’s more than capable as a storyteller, and I’m looking forward to seeing him evolve over the course of this series.

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It seems like forever ago since this book was first announced, but now that Stumptown is finally ready for the masses, I’m extremely excited. Greg Rucka and Matthew Southworth have created a world I’m dying to visit again, and the next thirty days of waiting to see what happens next are going to be rough. My only fear is that not enough shops will have ordered enough copies, and people might not be able to get their hands on one of the best new books this year. Of course, that won’t happen to you because you already had your shop order your copy, right?


3 Responses so far
  1. uberVU - social comments Said,

    Social comments and analytics for this post…

    This post was mentioned on Twitter by TheQuarterbin: Review of Oni’s Stumptown #1, due out Wednesday – http://bit.ly/zTkqq

    Posted on November 3rd, 2009 at 4:01 PM

  2. » Blog Archive » What to Watch for Wednesday Said,

    [...] Greg Rucka returns to creator-owned work for the first time in a while, and instead of only giving you a few sentences to explain my excitement, and explain why you should be picking this up, I’m just going to point you in the direction of our advance review so that you may get a better idea of just why you need to bring this book home with you tomorrow. You can check out my review, and a 5-page preview right here. [...]

    Posted on November 3rd, 2009 at 7:25 PM

  3. Mike Fleming Said,

    I’ve been waiting for Stumptown since I first heard about it last year. Rucka loves his leading women and this one is well written. The artwork is confusing. Dex looks like a different person every time she’s drawn.

    Maybe Rucka will have Michael Lark finish the series. I can dream, right?

    Posted on November 4th, 2009 at 4:24 PM

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