Written by: Greg Rucka
Publisher: Oni Press
I’ll admit that Major League Soccer has lasted far longer in North America than I initially suspected. In fact, it appears that it’s here to stay. In the first issue of the third volume of his excellent Stumptown series, writer Greg Rucka gives a nod to his hometown Portland Timbers. Soccer, hooliganism, and murder provide the backdrop for a well-developed character installment that excels where it counts. The art from Justin Greenwood and Ryan Hill falls flat or features awkward designs at times which hinders the book in certain instances.
The problem with murder-mysteries is that they are fairly formulaic and this first issue from Rucka and Greenwood suffers from following in the footsteps of pretty much every episode of CSI ever: Everyone is enjoying themselves…gee, isn’t this fun? Okay, let’s chill out and go home. Wait a second—isn’t that a dead body? However, “Stumptown #1” manages to rise above the more or less mundane premise to become an engrossing tale; well-constructed characters are the cure to so many woes.
Rucka is one hell of a writer and I’ve learned to trust him when it comes to playing the long game with his stories. His love for Dex Parios and her brother, Ansel, is evident from the start and this makes it easy for us to love them, too. It’s legitimately interesting just to pretend like we’re hanging out with Dex and Ansel. Their relationship carries the book forward with a powerful bond that will likely be tested in the coming issues as the fallout of the final page cliff-hanger is felt.
Greenwood is a talented artist, but I keep thinking that he’s doing books that don’t cater to his style. Character designs and expressions are often inconsistent or awkward, which become nagging distractions. His jagged and angular style doesn’t fit the gritty urban world of a murder-mystery, nor does it lend itself well to a soccer match. This version of Stumptown seems to be the weakest visually, at least so far.
If you’ve read the first two volumes of Stumptown then you know exactly what to expect from this book and won’t be disappointed in the least. If you’re a new reader, the great news is that this series is very accessible and by no means do you need to read the other volumes first in order to understand the story this time around. A fairly by-the-numbers plot with relatively weak visuals are saved by Rucka’s ability to write great dialogue and build compelling characters and relationships.
“Stumptown #1” earns 6.8/10