Matt Fraction’s quote at the top of Stumptown rings so true. I read a lot of Greg Rucka – he’s one of/if not my favorite writer in comics. He just writes women that kickass, and I would far rather see women kickass than seeing men do the same. Stumptown is the perfect Rucka book. It announces itself to the reader with a strong tone and clever writing.
Here’s the gist: Dex is a private investigator, a casino manager hires Dex to find her missing granddaughter at the expense of erasing Dex’s debt, Dex privately investigates and gets beaten up and shot. This is at the same time as she tries to handle her home life with a brother who has down-syndrome.
When comparing to his other works with strong women (Batwoman, Wonder Woman, Tara Chace, Carrie Stetko, etc.) to Stumptown, it is easily apparent that Rucka has gone with something a bit more gritty and noir. I grew up – in my early years – around Portland, and it’s easy to tell that Rucka has captured the nature of the city. There’s a certain mentality of having Portland be a rather weird city, and Rucka grounds the story in this strangeness. It’s not that anything really weird happens in the story – in fact, it’s rather straightforward – instead, it is this overwhelming queerness that you cannot shake out. Rucka runs with this feeling and keeps it going throughout so the reader does not know exactly what might spring up.
Let’s just talk about Dex as a character some more: a comic writer’s job – like any writer’s job but perhaps more important because they have to deal with images, as well – is to create an engrossing character or series of actions that is thrilling. Rucka opts for both and succeeds. Dex is a spitfire and reminds me of a female Peter Parker but much more real and funnier. The humor is very sly and black, but it makes you fall quickly in love with Dex as a character. She kicks a lot of ass, and, by far, my favorite line in the entire piece is, “You put a hand on her — I let weather into your skull.” Seriously, how badass is that!?
Rucka has always been paired up with fantastic artists and Matthew Southworth is no exception. He has a scratchy, raw, and energetic line where his brushstrokes either always connect or miss each other just barely. Plus, he incorporates a couple of different styles to match the mood of the scene. Southworth’s art actually gets better throughout the series as you can tell that he’s taking more risks. I also love how hands on his approach is. For instance, Dex gets a black eye within the first part of the story that will stay with her for the rest of the piece, and Southworth uses his own fingerprints to represent the bruise. He gets especially ambitious during his two page spreads which usually capture some phenomenal aspect of nature. I also enjoy how weathered the colors appear even for three people (including Southworth himself – which probably occurred during a certain night scene) working on it. Sure, the art style, for some people, may be hard to grasp at first, but give it some time and you’ll come to love it.
Let’s not forget to mention the beautiful package the series comes in. It is a thick hardcover with a solid binding. It feels good in your hands and will not disappoint you.
Overall, this is a fantastic investment well worth its $30 cover price. It would make a wonderful gift even for the most casual comics reader. If you want a badass female lead with a compelling story and art, then Stumptown delivers.