I know I’m a fool for trying to get into this series one issue into an ongoing case for Dex Parios. I found out about Stumptown last fall at Portland’s Rose City Comic Con, and meant to check it out. Unfortunately, unbeknownst to me at the time, grad school year two was about to kick my ass and I soon forgot anything not related to my thesis or my ongoing obsession with Radiolab. About five months later though, the name started tickling around my brain again, and I found myself checking out this most recent issue. Fortunately, Greg Rucka creates a compelling enough story that never lost me despite my newbishness to the series. Even with my limited knowledge, I can tell you that Dex handles some odd cases. This time out she’s working as a courier for millionaire Patrick Weekes, who needs some highly valued coffee beans delivered to him. Successful in her initial run, Dex shares with Weekes news that someone tried to buy off the shipment and that a duo of PDX hipsters, referred derisively as the Barista Mafia, tried to jack her as well. After Patrick enlists Dex’s courier services in another shipment, she returns home to find her cognitively impaired brother Ansel still up, puts him to bed, and waits for her sister Fuji to get home. The following day at her office, she’s greeted by Mr. Dove who now offers her twenty thousand dollars if she provides his employer with a pound from the following shipment. The rest of the comic follows Dex as she passes the next few days trying to tolerate her irresponsible sister while determining whether to accept Mr. Dove’s offer.
I like that Stumptown focuses equally on Dex’s home life as it does on the case at hand, especially how nicely they contrast as Dex seems to possess little of the temperament necessary to kindly throw her sister out while she maintains an air of calm when on a case. Her supporting cast doesn’t receive much focus this issue, but it’s apparent that Fuji has some control over her sister since she sticks around in spite of Dex’s protests. Nowhere is that more apparent than the montage during the days Dex waits for the next shipment with Fuji partaking in several activities in Dex’s apartment even with Dex’s growing frustration. It’ll be interesting to see how things play out between the sisters as Dex’s current case starts to raise its stakes. As a detective story, I’m a little less moved by this issue for the lack of intrigue it sets up there. Dex’s case moves forward only a slight nudge, and so far things seem really cut and dry as far as to what Dex ought to do next. Hopefully the plot complicates itself a bit more beyond rich men wanting decadent coffee, but we’ll see how things resolve on that front.
Justin Greenwood illustrates this comic with a great eye for fashion sensibilities as well as managing to convey an unsaid ‘Fuck you’ by Dex better than I’ve seen in any other comic. I liked his attention to the varying states of Dex’s living room as a result of Fuji’s presence, ensuring that without dialogue the reader knows that Fuji is an unwelcomed disruption in Dex’s life.
From this brief glimpse into Stumptown, I don’t think I could recommend it to a reader open to all genres and types of stories. There are just too many standout comics right now, some from Rucka himself, to recommend just a decent one. However, for someone looking to fill out their pull list with a contemporary detective story, there’s little reason not to recommend Stumptown. Detective stories are a dime for maybe half of one, but Stumptown has got emotional heft and PDX jokes going for it.