By Daniel Vlasaty
I've spent a decent amount of time in Las Vegas. My sister used to live there, and I would visit often. But it was never the gambling that I was interested in there. It was the drinking and the drugs. Vegas is the kind of city you go to with the intention of making bad decisions. Maybe it's different if you're local. But if you're from out-of-town Vegas can be blinding. It's the lights and the energy and the fact everything – and I mean everything – is right there within reach. I've always liked books and movies and whatever set in Vegas. Because the city has its own attitude and it's built into all of the characters, too. Dan Panosian's Slots is a book about the Las Vegas that maybe not a lot of people see. It's the kind of story that takes place off the Strip. It's a gritty story, and I'm hoping that we're all going to get a little dirty before it's over.
Slots tells the story of Stanley Dance. Stanley Dance is a lot of things. He's a boxer and a father and also maybe a dead-beat father and a gambler and a ladies' man and a smooth talker and a smart ass. Stanley Dance is everybody and nobody all at the same time. I think Stanley Dance's main problem is that he's not actually as smart as he thinks he is. But then again I could be wrong. I don’t know yet. This being the first issue and all.
Panosian does a great job in issue #1 of setting up the characters and also the place. Especially Stanley Dance. You really get a feel for the kind of guy he is. He's relatable and you probably know quite a few people like him – or maybe you're the Stanley Dance of your group of friends. He's not an entirely likeable character but I still found myself drawn to him. To root for him. And that's a problem. Because people like Stanley Dance will break your heart over and over again if you let them. If you let them get too close, too comfortable in your head.
He's a person with a lot of history and that's also built in to the place this story is set. Las Vegas. You really get a sense of the place here. Everyone knows Las Vegas, and even though this is maybe a slightly different side of it than most people know, it's still very clearly a place of its own. Stanley Dance's history is deeper than any place, though. It's in the people he interacts with. The locals. The people mucking around at the bottom, past their prime. Which is also where Dance is at in his life, too.
Slots is about a lot of things. It's about boxing and MMA and friends and family and gambling and burlesque dancers. It's about Vegas. But really it's about the characters. And all of them here are strong and realized and not characters we've seen over and over again in these crime drama type of stories.
All that being said I think it's still a little too early to say how this book is going to unfold. Like I've been saying this issue is mostly just introducing us to the characters and the setting. I felt like the weakest part of the book was the ending. It just felt flat and forced and kind of cliched. I saw it coming the second Stanley Dance mentioned that he had a son. It didn’t do much to hook me. Although I still do plan on returning for the second issue.
Visually, Slots is great. It looks great in every aspect. In the line work. In the colors. In the setting and characters. The book is kind of washed-out looking and I think that has to do with the color palate as well as the Ben-Day dots (which I had to look up the name of for the purpose of this review), they give the book a layer of texture. They also give off the feel of a pulp comic, something gritty and dirty and from another time period. Vegas is perfectly portrayed through the art. Again, I think the color work has something to do with this, but you really get a feel for the glitz and glamor, all the blinking lights and eye-ball-overload that comes with the Strip
Slots #1 is an interesting character study. Overall, though, I felt the story could have used more punch. It's a lot of set-up and what it's setting up seems to be right up my alley. The only problem I foresee is that book turning into more of a family drama than a crime drama. If those are even two distinctive things. I don’t even know. It's just that the end reveal has me a little worried about the path the story is going to follow.