STUMPTOWN Volume 2 #5
Written by Greg Rucka
Art by Matthew Southworth and Rico Renzi
Release Date: January 23, 2013
Volume 2 of Oni Press’ Stumptown may have wrapped up “The Case of the Baby in the Velvet Case,” but the adventures of Portland private detective Dex Parios are far from over. In the aftermath of last issue’s grand car chase (quite possibly one of the best in any media, not just comics), there are a few loose ends to tie up between Dex and her client, famed musician Mim Bracca. Baby is back where she should be, but why did she go missing in the first place?
In what easily could have been a significant let down after an action-filled conclusion last month, Rucka manages to ramp excitement back up within the final issue of this volume, and drop his main character once again into the thick of danger. Dex is not an easy protagonist to wrap your head around. At once she’s seemingly self-motivated (as most private eyes have been known to be) and altruistic, continuing the investigation into the disappearance of Baby despite her safe return. It’s the mystery, more than the money (although lord knows, she needs the money), that’s driving Dex — not to mention an incurable desire to buck authority and do it all her way. It would have been easy to walk away, but more than anything, being told it “might be best if you kept your head down” made that instantly impossible. But is it just a pathological need to get it right that keeps Dex moving forward, or a sense of heroics buried underneath a screwed-up exterior? I suspect, in the finest tradition of American P.I. drama, it’s a little bit of both, and that combination makes for a fantastically compelling heroine amid more traditional ones scattered across the comic shelves.
Southworth’s art, while far less detailed in comparison to today’s standard comic fare, revels in a moodiness and dramatic tension that works in perfect partnership with Rucka’s characterization. When you look at any single panel, the relative simplicity can be really quite stunning — seeing spare sharp line accented by just the right amount of shading. But once you pull back, to see the construction of the page and the entire book, you really can’t help but marvel at the cohesiveness of the entire package. Of particular note in issue 5 is Renzi’s colors, which manage to shift the tone so elegantly from scene to scene far more than in any previous installment. Moving from the fluorescence of the police station to the dark blue hues of the outside at night to the warmth of a hotel, you really get the sense of time passing and being segmented in a way the panels themselves couldn’t alone. And one vibrant, three-page multi-colored sequence toward the conclusion could possibly be my visual favorite in both Stumptown volumes, as light literally seems to dance across the page.
My big regret, of course, is that with Stumptown #5, we are once again on hiatus from the ongoing disaster that seems to follow Dex wherever she goes. Readers of the previous volume are rewarded with a tease for the future, and I’m already itching to get back into this world. Another case please, Mssrs. Rucka, Southworth and Renzi! And the sooner the better!