Hoofin’ It In Portland

Stumptown #1
Written by Greg Rucka
Illustrated by Matthew Southworth
Colored by Lee Loughridge
Published by Oni Press

I went to the comic shop planning to buy a new overpriced convoluted mainstream comic mini series. What I came out with was a creator-owned book by a writer whose work I buy far too little of. It was the same price with 10 extra pages. There was only one in the shop. It could have been somebody’s copy. If you’re reading this and it was yours I apologize. But know that it went to a good home. Lately I’ve been seriously rethinking my comic collecting, and I’ve had to drop a few titles. But every once in awhile you have to take a chance on something that looks good. Stumptown may look similar to Criminal but the similarities end there.

The story is about a Private Investigator, Dexedrene (Dex) C. Parious, from Portland Oregon that is well over her head in gambling debts. She’s pretty much flat broke and doesn’t know when to quit. She lives with her brother, who has some kind of a mental condition, and runs her agency out of her house. Could be she’s hit a dry spell, or maybe it has to do with getting her brother help, although he seems well enough.

In order to cover her debts the owner of the casino needs Dex to find her missing granddaughter Charlotte. She could have run off with a boy but nobody is sure. All they know is that she left and she didn’t take her car. Dex can play it two ways. Pay back the 16 plus grand she owes the house, or find the girl. She doesn’t really have a choice.

Through the next 27 hours or so we see her doing what she does, although I can’t say best because it’s too early in the game. We’re taken around Portland and, from the write up in the back we’re told, it’s as accurate as possible. Which is kind of a thing with Portland books. They’re very intimate with the town for whatever reason. The same can be said for the people of the town in the comic. They all seem to know Dex in one way or another but it’s beyond her being a Private Dick. People genuinely ask about her brother and how things are. She’s not liked by everyone.

Two guys threaten her to stop looking for Charlotte. To stay out of it. One even runs his switchblade through the canvas top of her Mustang. All she can say is that she has no idea what she’s in.

Just when you think it’s a straight missing persons case we find out there’s another party looking for her as well. The seventh richest man in the state. He owns a sizable chunk of commerce and business coming in. But what he wants her for we don’t find out. All we know is he’s willing to pay more than twice her debt to be told where she is first. My only gripe with this scene is the use of the term “gone missing,” which just makes me cringe. She’s just “missing.”

Dex goes back home and there’s another nice scene with her brother. You get the feeling they are close, that they’re all each other has, but you don’t know the story behind it yet. Then the phone rings. It’s Charlotte. She’s worried that “HE’S” going to kill her. She never says who. Dex wants to meet her at a local bar to straighten everything out. When there’s no answer on the other end to confirm she just automatically assumes it’s a yes and head out.

But she’s stood up. The two men come back to threaten her. The cynic in me wonders how they knew she was there. Tip off? They probably followed her. But who do they work for?

We’re brought back to the first few pages of the book. The men bring Dex, placed in the trunk but not tied up and with her cell phone (although she never calls for help), under a large extension bridge. They shoot her and throw her body in the water. But she wore her vest. The local PD pick her up and they’re not happy with her. Maybe they just had a bad night. But how did they know she was there? Did somebody hear the shots and call in? Maybe we’ll find out next issues. The police don’t even want to listen to what she has to say. They figure she’s just a drunk or a junkie until they check her ID. She’s thrown in the cruiser anyway.

The end of “The Case of the Girl Who Took Her Shampoo and Left Her Mini” part one.

Some people like crime stories. Others don’t. It’s just a genre you’re either going to take to or not with very little gray area in between. I can’t say that I know any readers or crime writers that will say something was okay. If you like this issue you’ll come back for the next. What keeps me coming back is the dialogue. If it doesn’t sound natural, like having a conversation or watching a movie, then it falls short. The dialogue in spot-on for the story and I only want to see more of the characters and their relationships.

Stumptown is solid crime fiction without getting too garish or going too soft. Nothing is for the sake of in this book. The comics I collect are dropping like flies. With a price tag of four dollar the comic better be good. Not only was this a good read but it was also 32 pages of story and that’s saying something. The fact that the art and design are top notch only serves to solidify the quality.

Next month my comic shop is going to have to order two copies.

Anthony Schiavino can be found talking comics, movies, television and all things pulp at his website PulpTone.com, Facebook, and Twitter.


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