Comic Review: Stumptown, Vol. 4: The Case of a Cup of Joe

Published: January 25th, 2017
Written by: Greg Rucka
Art by: Justin Greenwood, Ryan Hill

Oni Press, 143 Pages

Review:

This fourth and final volume of Stumptown was definitely a step up from the fairly mundane third chapter. Granted, I still wasn’t as engaged by this story as I was the first two.

The plot here is more interesting than the previous book but there doesn’t feel like there’s any real danger here for the characters, as the heavies in this are inexperienced hipsters from the coffee scene and not legitimate, dangerous criminals and brutes that have actually gotten blood on their hands.

In fact, this felt more like a comedy than a neo-noir crime drama.

Maybe Greg Rucka wanted to go out on a lighter note with this one but it lacks the gravity of the earlier stories and certainly pales in comparison to the darker, grittier and more realistic neo-noir comic book tales by Ed Brubaker.

I didn’t think this was a waste but it didn’t hit the mark and just didn’t pull me in and hold onto me like the first two volumes did.

There’s really not much else to say. This is just about a bunch of rich eccentrics and hipsters trying to acquire some magic coffee beans.

The end.

Rating: 6/10
Pairs well with: the other Stumptown volumes, as well as Gotham CentralKill Or Be Killed, The Fade Out and Sin City.

Comic Review: Stumptown, Vol. 3: The Case of the King of Clubs

Published: April 15th, 2015
Written by: Greg Rucka
Art by: Justin Greenwood, Ryan Hill

Oni Press, 133 Pages

Review:

I kind of dug the first two volumes of Stumptown and I’ve also been enjoying the television series, which debuted last fall. However, this third volume in the comics series felt like a real step down.

First off, I don’t like the art. The artist changed and the previous volumes felt more refined and less cartoonish. They still had a good, indie feel to them but this feels more like a typical Oni Press book where the other ones looked more polished and like crime comics put out by a bigger indie publisher like Image.

Also, I thought the story was weak as hell, pretty predictable and felt more like an advertisement for the Portland Timbers soccer team, as well as Portland soccer culture, than it did a gritty, edgy crime story. It felt less neo-noir and more ABC Afterschool Special.

This volume was a bore to get through, didn’t live up to the expectations I had based off of the two stories before this one and it just felt like everything was dialed in.

The story lacked layers, proper plot twists and was completely bogged down by slice of life shenanigans and repetitive conversations between paper thin characters.

Rating: 5/10
Pairs well with: the other Stumptown volumes, as well as Gotham CentralKill Or Be Killed, The Fade Out and Sin City.

Vids I Dig 177: Comic Tropes: Greg Rucka’s Approach to Crime Fiction as Seen in ‘Stumptown’

From Comic Tropes’ YouTube description: Crime fiction is an underrepresented genre in comic books but what can be found is often excellent. This week, I’m breaking down the techniques Greg Rucka uses to write mysteries, with an eye to Stumptown, his series about a private eye named Dex. It was recently adapted into an ABC show so it seemed like a good time to break it all down.

Comic Review: Gotham Central – Book One: In the Line of Duty

Published: March 15th, 2011
Written by: Ed Brubaker, Greg Rucka
Art by: Michael Lark

DC Comics, 241 Pages

Review:

Gotham Central is a comic book series that I have heard nothing but praise for since it started back in 2002. I never read it but I have now read a lot of Ed Brubaker’s crime comics, as well as Greg Rucka’s Stumptown, which has a similar tone and style.

Since I am a fan of both writers’ crime stuff, as well as a Batman fan, I figured that giving this a read was long overdue.

What’s cool about Gotham Central is that it primarily focuses on the police officers on the Gotham City Police Department with very little involvement from Batman. Hell, this first collection doesn’t even feature Commissioner Gordon. I’m not sure if he comes back to the fold by the end of this series but so far, no Gordon in the GCPD.

While Brubaker and Rucka get this series started with a bang, Brubaker stepped away after the first arc, giving Rucka control of the series’ narrative.

There are two big tales in this. The first being about the GCPD trying to take down Mr. Freeze without the aid of Batman, the second being about Renee Montoya’s being forced out of the closet and into a murder frame up plot by Two-Face.

I actually didn’t realize that this was the series where Montoya was first depicted as a lesbian. I actually thought it was before this but having never read that story, it was handled pretty well and I liked the way it played out, why she was outed to her colleagues and family and then how it all came to a head in a surprising and twisted way.

This was pretty good top to bottom. I don’t know if I’m as enthused about it as many others were but I at least want to read the second volume to see how this series plays out over a larger sample size.

While it deals with some heavy shit for a standard DC comic book, I wouldn’t say that it gets as dark and messed up as Brubaker’s other crime stories. I’d say this is actually closer in tone to Rucka’s Stumptown series.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: the other three books in the Gotham Central series, as well as Ed Brubaker and Greg Rucka’s own crime comics.

Comic Review: Stumptown, Vol. 2

Published: May 29th, 2013
Written by: Greg Rucka
Art by: Matthew Southworth, Rico Renzi

Oni Press, 137 Pages

Review:

I enjoyed the first volume of Stumptown. It wasn’t anything that blew me away but it was an enjoyable private eye comic with neo-noir flavor.

This story was a step up, however, and I think that Greg Rucka kind of found his flow.

The case in this volume is about trying to locate a rock star’s missing guitar. As the plot unravels and the DEA are involved, we learn that someone has been smuggling drugs through the rock band’s equipment, as they travel from city to city.

You get some swerves and a few reveals but the plot is pretty straightforward and plays more like a TV crime drama, which is probably why ABC just adapted this into a television show. The show is pretty good so far, by the way.

The biggest takeaway from this series, thus far, is that I really like these characters.

Additionally, I really like the art style and it fits the narrative tone well.

If you like crime comics, especially the stuff by Ed Brubaker, this will probably be right up your alley. It isn’t as overly violent and edgy as Brubaker’s stuff though. But for some, that might be a bonus as Brubaker’s crime comics can be brutal at times.

Rating: 8/10
Pairs well with: the other Stumptown volumes, as well as Gotham CentralKill Or Be Killed, The Fade Out and Sin City.

TV Review: Stumptown (2019- )

Original Run: September 25th, 2019 – current
Created by: Jason Richman
Directed by: various
Written by: various
Based on: Stumptown by Greg Rucka, Matthew Southworth, Justin Greenwood
Music by: Tyler Bates
Cast: Cobie Smulders, Jake Johnson, Tantoo Cardinal, Cole Sibus, Adrian Martinez, Camryn Manheim, Michael Ealy, Donal Logue

Don’t Tell Mom, The District, ABC, 7 Episodes (so far), 44 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

After reading the first Stumptown comic, I figured I’d give the television show a shot, as it just premiered a month and a half ago and because I generally like Cobie Smulders and Jake Johnson.

This is adapted from a neo-noir comic series by Greg Rucka and while the show adapts it fairly well, at least, its framework, this feels a little less neo-noir and a bit more like a network television crime show. While that’s not a bad thing, network TV is generally a pretty watered down and sterile version of the things it tries to adapt.

At least this has the same spirit as the comic.

It feels and looks different in that it loses its stylized visual allure and the edginess is scaled back quite a bit.

Additionally, the first episode starts with a familiar story for fans of the comic but it quickly veers off in its own direction. The show is episodic, usually solving a crime in one or two episodes where it then moves on to the next plot. So if you’re expecting the first graphic novel to basically be the first season, it isn’t.

Now all of this might sound like criticism but it’s not.

The fact of the matter is, I like the show, at least the half dozen episodes I binge watched to see if I wanted to keep moving forward with it. Based off of my experience, I’ll probably watch a full season of this and then decide whether or not I want to stick with it. But, so far, so good.

What really works for me is the cast. Everyone is really good in their roles and the main players all have great chemistry. I especially like the chemistry between Cobie Smulders, Jake Johnson and Cole Sibus.

I also like that the show features a special needs character that isn’t treated unrealistically. In fact, Sibus’ Ansel is one of the highlights for me. The kid is just damn good.

Additionally, within the first episode, the show accomplished what it needed to do in that it made me care about all of these characters.

Also, Stumptown is pretty refreshing in 2019, in that it features a tough, female lead but this show is written in a way that makes her a very anti-Mary Sue character. She struggles, she fails, she adapts, hell… she gets her ass kicked… a lot. Yet she grows as a character, becomes better at her newfound job and works through her flaws.

I can’t yet say that this is a hands down good show. It’s off to a solid start though and I care about these people and their situations. Maybe I’ll have to give an update after season one concludes sometime next year.

Rating: 7.75/10
Pairs well with: probably other network television crime and P.I. shows but this one does seem cooler and more fun than the majority of them.

Comic Review: Stumptown, Vol. 1

Published: April 5th, 2011
Written by: Greg Rucka
Art by: Matthew Southworth, Lee Loughridge

Oni Press, 156 Pages

Review:

With Stumptown being adapted for television, I figured I’d also give the first graphic novel a read for comparison’s sake. I haven’t watched the show yet but I’ll probably binge the first half dozen episodes or so, once they’re available.

The comic series is a pretty good neo-noir in a similar vein to Ed Brubaker’s crime comics. In fact, Greg Rucka and Brubaker both worked on DC’s Gotham Central, which was a very noir-esque crime series featuring the cops of Gotham as the focal point.

This story follows a private investigator, as she is in debt over her head and more or less forced to find the missing granddaughter of a casino owner.

Stumpland takes place in and around Portland, Oregon, which gives it a cool setting that isn’t really a normal town for noir stories. In fact, I don’t really think about crime or Mexican cartels when I think of Portland but this actually takes you into that realm.

The main character, Dex, kind of reminds me of Jessica Jones or at least the television version of the character. Which, honestly, makes me wonder if they re-worked Jessica in the Netflix show to be more like this character?

I liked this tale but I also thought it was pretty predictable and more straightforward than a typical noir plot. There are the twists and turns, as one would expect, but none of them are really outside of the box or all that surprising.

What really made this work for me was the art. It’s pretty raw but the use of colors was superb. I guess the artists have changed over the course of the different Stumptown stories but I hope that the style is similar when I get to the later volumes.

Stumptown didn’t wow my socks off like Brubaker’s crime comics but it was still a cool and pretty refreshing story. And I plan on reading the volumes that come after this one.

Rating: 7.75/10
Pairs well with: the later Stumptown series, as well as Gotham CentralKill Or Be Killed, The Fade Out and Sin City.

Comic Review: Star Wars: Shattered Empire

Published: November 18th, 2015
Written by: Greg Rucka, Greg Pak
Art by: Marco Checchetto, Chris Sprouse
Based on: Star Wars by George Lucas

Marvel Comics, 123 Pages

Review:

This came out just before the first Disney Star Wars movie, The Force Awakens. It was meant to bridge the gap between Return of the Jedi and the new sequel trilogy.

It’s a complete failure of storytelling though.

Does it bridge the gap? Sort of, I guess.

The story follows the events of the Battle of Endor but focuses on Poe Dameron’s mom, a character we’ve never heard of but is suddenly a hero known by everyone, even Luke Skywalker who basically bows before her presence, alerting us of a character propped up as an infallible Mary Sue. And I hate having to go there but Mama Dameron is the exact definition of a Mary Sue character.

Then she goes on an adventure with Leia to Naboo and they meet the current Queen of Naboo. Then there are only three starfighters, so these three women, two of which are fucking royalty, take off into space to fight a fleet of Imperial Star Destroyers all on their own.

This is heavy handed girl power nonsense and a blight on Star Wars, which is why I don’t consider this Disney bullshit to be canon. It’s not that having strong, heroic women is the problem, it’s that they’re thrown into situations that are nonsensical and pointless other than making some sort of social or political statement.

Frankly, Star Wars: Shattered Empire is a prime example of why modern Marvel has been so widely criticized. I like to give each comic a fair shot and look at them as individual bodies of work judged on their own merits but this comic makes it pretty damn clear why the mainstream comic book industry is shrinking and has nealt lost its entire audience.

This was absolute horseshit.

But the art was really good, to be fair.

Rating: 2.5/10
Pairs well with: I guess the other recent Marvel Star Wars comics and the Disney sequel films.

Comic Review: Batman: No Man’s Land – The Complete Saga (Volumes 1-5)

Published on: September 1st, 1999 (Volume 1)
Written by: Bob Gale, Devin Grayson, Greg Rucka, Ian Edgington
Art by: Alex Maleev, Dale Eaglesham, various others

DC Comics, 1040 Pages (total over all 5 volumes)

Review:

There have been a lot of huge stories in the Batman mythos over the last 75 plus years. This story may have been the biggest.

Following the events of Contagion and Cataclysm, No Man’s Land tells the long and epic tale of life within Gotham City after a massive earthquake.

In a nutshell, everything was nearly destroyed and the United States government condemned the city and requested that everyone leave, as it was christened “No Man’s Land”. Nothing comes in and nothing comes out of Gotham City in this world. It is essentially like the world in Escape From New York. Except this is Gotham City and this world is full of Batman, his allies and his enemies.

This event took place across every Batman related title throughout 1999. It encompassed the entire Batman world and involved just about every living character that existed in the flesh, at the time.

This is a great series to pick up, as it sort of reinvents and reestablishes the Batman landscape. With Gotham being wiped out everything literally has to be rebuilt from the ground up. Batman reestablishes his connections with his allies and makes some new ones in the process. This series also invloves just about every major Batman villain, so each chapter in this series is literally a Who’s Who of Batman’s rogues gallery.

This series is also notable for being the first time that Harley Quinn and Mercy Graves appeared in comic book form, as part of official DC Comics canon. Both characters started out in the DC Animated Universe but became so popular that they were officially adopted by DC.

The art and the writing in this series is well beyond top notch. There are a lot of things that make this one of my favorite Batman sagas, if not my absolute favorite.

If you’ve ever wanted to see how Batman would live in a post-apocalyptic scenario, here’s your chance.

Rating: 9.5/10
Pairs well with: The big Batman events leading up to this: Knightfall and Cataclysm.