Illustrations: Matthew Southworth
Colours: Lee Loughridge, Rico Renzi and Matthew Southworth
Design: Keith Wood
Publisher: Oni Press
What's it about?
There's a female Private Investigator called Dex Parios. She's broke because she gambles, so she's forced to take on a case to wipe out her debt.
What's the case? The boss of the Wind Coast casino, Sue-Lynne, has a granddaughter who's gone missing. Sue-Lynne fears her granddaughter is mixing with unsavoury characters and wants her home. Feeling dubious, Dex takes on the case. What follows is mystery; intrigue; a fair few punches; some guns; family revelations; and a very annoyed Dex.
There's a lot of swearing and violence so I'd say it's intended for mature readers.
What's good about it?
Oh my. Oh my. I was absolutely hooked reading this. I normally hate detective stories, but this book marks the second one I've ever enjoyed. It's told with such style, such panache. Rucka is a really talented storyteller and he makes his worlds so believable and enthralling, you are immediately hooked.
Dex is a supremely likeable character. She's flawed, sure - she's really flawed. I mean, she's got a gambling habit and she's mouthy. Mind you, depending on your point of view those might not be flaws. She gets beat up a lot, which just proves she's stubborn enough to march headlong into difficult situations. She can be rude. She can grumble. She's witty. She flirts with the doctor in ER. She lives with her brother.
What's bad about it?
I was so enthralled as I read this that I can't think of anything to criticise. That's probably not the best thing to say. As a reviewer I should be more objective but, honestly, I loved it so much I just want to tell everyone about it!
People familiar with the detective genre might see flaws in it but, as a newbie, I couldn't see any problems.
What's the art like?
As with the best comics, the art and the dialogue don't repeat themselves. You can tell as much about the characters from their body language, their facial expressions, their choice of clothes and their working areas as you can from the dialogue.
The colours are simply terrific. Scenes tend to be done in one or two colour palettes, be that blues or greens or purples. Perhaps there are themes to the chosen colours that I haven't picked up on yet. Nevertheless, the colour themes bring life and vibrancy to the art.
The inking is bold and gives a lot of depth to the art.
Dex's whole demeanour and the way she is drawn tells you about her personality. There's a lot of body language and well thought out placement in the panels. The art is very similar to that in Gotham Central, which is the only other detective series that I like. Not-so-coincidentally it's also written by Greg Rucka.
If poetry could be art, some of these panels would be it. This next example is so fluid, and so full of grace, it's breathtaking.
The artist has written about how he researched the town of Stumptown. He has spent hours poring over maps and images from the the town in order to create as real a piece of fiction as possible. He visited a few times to double check it was right. He wants the reader to really know the place: he wants them to visit Stumptown and recognise the landmarks from the book. I've never been there, but I'd like to think that he got it right.
I can only find Stumptown volume 1 in hardcover on Amazon.
Price: £14.40 (currently reduced from £22.50)
It's also available on Comixology priced at $1.99 an issue. That's about £1.60 in British money.
Stumptown volume 2 is also out at Comixology but won't be released in hardcover until October 2013.
The Stumptown story takes place in the same continuity as Greg Rucka's other books, Fistful of Rain and Atticus Kodiak, as all stories share minor characters. The Stumptown website is here.
If you like this book try Gotham Central books one, two, three, four and five. These are DC Universe books and are set in the Gotham City Police Department. They are less to do with Batman and far more to do with the cops. You can also buy them on Comixology.
Greg Rucka has written a lot of great comics. It's fair to say he's one of my favourite comics writers.
In terms of superheroes, he has contributed issues to the excellent Batman: No Man's Land, 52 and Superman: Sacrifice. He has written a lot of Wonder Woman books - to my mind he's got the character better than anyone else. Eyes of the Gorgon and The Hiketeia are prime examples. Going back to Gotham, he's written Batwoman: Elegy and Final Crisis: Revelations.
In terms of non-superheroes, his Whiteout and Queen and Country books are also excellent.