STUMPTOWN Volume 2 #1
Written by Greg Rucka
Art by Matthew Southworth and Rico Renzi
Release Date: September 12, 2012
Oni Press’ Stumptown continues with a new volume and a new case, as private investigator Dex Parios sets up shop in a new Portland, Oregon office and encounters a brand new, but very recognizable client. The Case of the Baby in the Velvet Case begins as guitarist Miriam Bracca of the band Tailhook shows up at Dex’s door looking for someone to find her first, and favorite, guitar — gone missing after her last show. The case quickly escalates into a showdown with skinheads and the D.E.A., leaving Dex in over her head once again in the finest tradition of American P.I. literature.
Volume one of Stumptown is probably one of my favorite comic series of the last few years, and for good reason. It’s the perfect blend of character focus, beautiful art, high production value, and sharp detail that makes lead character Dex Parios so brilliant to watch in action. Coming in with such high expectation off a previous volume (or case, as the books are titled), the start of volume two had a mighty hill to climb. I can say it succeeds in every way to match up to my expectation.
Rucka’s depiction of Dex in this first issue is a little more “at rest” than we experienced at the start of volume one, where the detective was literally already under the gun from the moment we met. That said, both new readers and those returning will get a lot out of Dex’s re-introduction. She’s a bit down on her luck (although not as much as before), but maintains her ethics and a sense of self-preservation, has a sharp wit, and if nothing else, is absolutely a ballsy bullshitter, willing to stand face-to-face with a crazed assailant and keep a sly grin on her face. We get quite the lay of the land from Rucka here as well, from background on her new client, to some well-played reference back to her previous case.
Southworth once again creates a magnificent picture of the Pacific Northwest and really captures the rough-edged quality of his Stumptown subjects. Dex is drawn as a particular woman, not just any woman, with a distinct set of body language all her own. Rarely standing up perfectly straight, Dex exhibits a unique swagger that you can almost see animated across the page. Southworth’s detail in the inanimate is no less compelling, as the precision put into the design of automobiles and architectural elements forces the reader to slow down and absorb every single page in slow motion. The sophistication of Renzi’s muted color palette also cannot go without mention here, as it is such an instrumental part of making Stumptown the kind of book you’d almost want to pay more for. In a market flush with so many comics that can be read in 3-5 minutes a piece, experiencing a book that makes you slow down and take it all in — not because it’s wordy, but because it’s that beautiful — is a rare treat in itself. Don’t let this one pass you by.