By Daniel Vlasaty
I have a love/hate relationship with miniseries. I love them because they’re easily digestible, four or five or six issues of story. Nothing too huge or time consuming. There’s no twenty or fifty or, shit, one hundred plus issue commitment. And I hate them because when they’re good I don’t want them to end. When they’re good I want them to keep going, with more and more issues. But only if they keep that fire burning. Anyway whatever. Issue #4 is the final issue of The Dregs. And if you’ve been reading my reviews then you’ll know how I feel about this book. And if you haven’t, I’ll tell you. I fucking love it. The Dregs is easily the best series I’ve read this year, at least. Every issue has been great in both story and art. And issue #4 is no different. I thought this was the perfect ending to a pretty goddamn close to perfect book.
So, I’ve been sitting here a while trying to figure out how to write this review without spoiling anything. This issue is one that has to be read and experienced for yourself. And I’ve decided that I’m not going to go into the plot at all. Because I can’t. Because there’s no way to talk about it without spoiling at least a little bit of it. And fuck that. Read this thing, you’ll dig it. Seriously, if you’ve been reading this book the last three issues, you already know what’s up. And if you haven’t, reading the review of the fourth issue isn’t going to do anything to convince you otherwise. Go back and read my review of issue #1, maybe. Or, fuck, trust me and just read the fucking book.
I like a book that gives enough of a pay-off at the end but doesn’t wrap everything up in a neat little bow. I need a book that reads like real-life. Even if it is about a Raymond Chandler obsessed, homeless drug addict investigating his friend’s disappearance and a restaurant that’s killing and serving homeless people to its rich clientele. It’s all about the characters to me. The story can be as outlandish as they come but as long as the characters are good and true and grounded then it’s all okay. Arnold is an interesting character. He’s a drug addict so he’s automatically untrustworthy. Even he can’t trust himself. Or what he’s seeing. Even if he thinks he’s the only reasonable person left in a world that’s gone completely fucking insane. But, then, doesn’t that just make him the crazy one? I don’t know. Maybe. Probably. But none of that matters when there’s money to be made and people gotta eat, right? Even the homeless people Arnold tries his best to convince.
Sometimes there is no talking desperate people out of desperate situations.
Sometimes nothing makes sense but the needle as you slide it into your arm.
The Dregs is co-written by Lonnie Nadler and Zac Thompson. They’ve done and amazing job telling this story for the first three issues and they do it again here. The pacing is perfect. They really take their time getting into Arnold’s head. The confusion he faces, because of all the drugs and the totally fucked up situation and the fact that he’s the only one that even seems to care about it at all, really propels this issue to its conclusion. Arnold can’t wrap his head around why the world is not like it is in the books he loves so much. Why there’s no definite good and bad. why the world can’t be so black and white. I think this issue really defines him as a character and his ambiguous end is perfectly real to me.
While the writing/story were great here, I feel like the art really took over the issue. The art and colors (done by Eric Zawadzki and Dee Cunniffe) are truly amazing. There’s a page about halfway through the issue that I think perfectly represents this. Arnold’s just left La Mancha after not getting the results he expected. And he starts running away from the cops, and it’s raining. We see the city breezing past and the rain falling, and Arnold’s finally coming to terms with what’s going on. He starts crying and the panel is a close-up on his face, on the tears building in his eyes. This is an emotional issue, full of introspection and the art exemplifies this. The story tells us a lot, but we get just as much from the empty panels of falling rain and dripping puddles. The environment becomes a character itself. The city, too.
The Dregs is easily the best book of the year. I know I’ve said that a few times now. But seriously. All things considered, from start to finish, I can’t imagine anything being better than The Dregs. One of my favorite things about reviewing is finding new books, connecting with creators and other fans, over-thinking things long after I finished reading. And this is a book that’s going to stay with me for a long time. I know. This is one of those stories you return to frequently, where you pick up new things each time, see things differently. I can tell. Because there’s no way you can get it all with one read-through. So please, please, please do yourself a favor and read this fucking book already. You won’t regret it. Trust me.
The Dregs #4
Black Mask Studios