Stumptown issue 1 left me cold, which is extremely unusual for me and a Greg Rucka comic. The issue has some wonderful art and extremely good moments between characters, but it felt like one extended scenario as opposed to a contained issue. At the beginning of the issue, we’re introduced to Detective Hoffman and CK Driver, rival soccer players and possible lesbians in the Pacific Northwest. (They’re playing soccer because Rucka.) Driver scores on goalie Dax, who is I think also a detective? and through her, we meet her stuttering and possibly developmentally disabled brother, who is a huge soccer fan. Dax’s friend Mercury bought two tickets to the autographing after a Portland Timbers game, which Dax and her brother enjoy, right before they discover a bloody and battered body in the bushes.
That’s the entire issue.
This issue feels much too slow for a number one, even if it is for a third volume. Number ones are big deals; you have to introduce all the characters, how they relate to each other, and introduce an intriguing plot to get people to buy the second issue. This issue takes it at face value that you’re familiar with the universe of Stumptown, and if you already are, it feels like another complete entry in their story. It reads like a season two premiere. You know the universe, you know the core cast, you know what kind of story it will be, you don’t need much to dive back in. This is not that, however.
The art in this issue by Justin Greenwood, is pretty great. It reminds me of the best work of the Gabriel Ba and Fabio Moon (the Moon Brothers? The Ba Twins?). It’s blocky and gestural and colorful; there’s a lot to love in the pencils here. Ryan Hill’s coloring’s only hiccup is the cover. It’s a little drab, it’s a little brown. I realize it’s the Pacific Northwest, but come on. There’s still color there. The rest of the issue is extremely well-colored. It’s a team effort that sells the celebratory moment of the Timbers game when Dax’s brother holds up his “NO PITY” strip.
I can’t give this issue a bad review. It has some extremely great moments that could only happen in comics. The soccer game could never be as loud as I’m hearing, or as tense as I’m imagining if I was watching it like an episode of Friday Night Lights. As sports are something that are rarely seen in a comic, and even then even more rarely seen effectively conveying the adrenaline rush of being there, that’s an achievement in and of itself. If only there were more to the issue.
I’m intrigued to see where the mystery of this issue goes, but as far as a traditional noir, it almost doesn’t make it. There’s a classic inciting incident for a traditional noir story that this issue ignores. It almost gets there, but it consciously doesn’t go for the low-hanging fruit. Whether this qualifies it as a winner or a failure, who knows. All I know is that I could take or leave another issue of the series, and that makes me sad.
Writer: Greg Rucka Artist: Justin Greenwood Publisher: Oni Press Price: $3.99 Release Date: 8/13/14 Format: Print/Digital