I don’t know I made it so long without fully appreciating crime stories. If there’s one writer I have to thank for opening my eyes to the genre, it’s George Pelecanos. His novels – especially his early stuff – are real eye openers.
From Pelecanos, I pretty much followed the traditional model for detective/crime fiction, starting with Edgar Allan Poe, moving to Arthur Conan Doyle, until finally drowning in the amazement of Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler.
So, it was a nice coincidence to discover Brian Michael Bendis’ crime comic books (Torso and Goldfish are both amazing), and that Ed Brubaker was publishing Criminal through Marvel’s Icon, to but name a few.
I understand if an American comic book doesn’t at least dip its toe into the superhero genre that it’s likely to be overlooked by the mainstream audience, but considering the abundance of alternatives and the high quality of these projects, readers are really running out of excuses not to give these books a chance.
Which brings me to Stumptown, written by Greg Rucka, with art by Matthew Southworth and Lee Loughridge, and published through Oni Press.
Set in Portland, Oregon, Stumptown follows private investigator Dex Parios who solves cases while desperately dodging her own personal vices. There’s nothing new here, to be honest, but Rucka makes it feel fresh with some swift characterization and Southworth makes it shine with some nicely done panel work. Such as pages 5-6 from the first issue:
First off, what a great way to kick off the series. And while it comes from Rucka’s story, its Southworth (and Loughridge) who does the heavy lifting here, from the flash of the gunshots, the startled bird, to the slow descent of the protagonist’s fall into the water. It feels like a scene from a Cohen brothers movie, and yet, it’s something that can only be pulled off in a comic book. The pages simultaneously get your eyes to slow down and your mind racing to know what’s going to happen next.
It’s perfect storytelling.
Stumptown is only a few issues in, so it’s not too late to jump aboard this story. If you’re a fan of detective fiction, you owe it to yourself to give this book a shot.