Greg Rucka strikes gold again in comics with his new series Stumptown. And it isn’t just the brilliant, heart-felt characters and the twisting private eye plotlines in this one, folks. His artist Matthew Southworth is amazing. I’d never even heard of Southworth until this book, but you can bet I’ll be looking for more of his work, and I’ll bet it doesn’t get hard to find in the coming months because he’s going to fill up his dance card after this.
Speaking of betting, Rucka’s female PI Dex (short for Dexedrine) Callisto Parios has got a definite gambling problem and a losing streak that seems to follow her everywhere. Her life is a screwed up mess, but she loves her mentally challenged little brother Ansel. Seems like everyone does, and Rucka delivers some nice bits between the siblings that fleshes out Dex’s character a lot. No explanation of where the parents are, yet, but I’m waiting to hear.
After her latest bad night at the local Indian gambling casino, Dex gets hauled in and given a job. She’s not given much of a choice about it. If she finds Charlotte Suppa, the granddaughter of the casino owner, Dex’s sixteen thousand dollars worth of bad debt will be forgiven. At first it looks like the case is just a charity thing, a bone the casino owner is throwing Dex. Then two guys grab her and take her out to the river to kill her.
I like Rucka’s characters. I generally do, but there’s something special about Dex. She’s more edgy than a lot of his heroines, but she’s been damaged in ways that we’re just starting to learn about in this comic. I felt instantly empathetic.
What I love most about the book, though, is the art. Southworth makes the city come alive around Dex. The streets and the buildings and houses all feel real. I’ve been in neighborhoods like that, and I’ve seen people in the Northwest that could have stepped right from Southworth’s pages. The way that Dex dresses, in the jacket much of the time to blunt the cold coming in from the ocean, is great detail. The trees and nature impinging wherever it can in the scenes is another fantastic touch. Southworth seems to instinctively convey action and menace in his panels, and the story flows easily from Point A to Point B even though Rucka spins the story back and forth through time. I especially love the opening bit with the shooting and the bridge in the background. Just really great imagery.