This graphic novel, Stumptown, Vol 2, features a young woman, Dex, who has her own detective agency in Portland, Oregon. She gets a wonderful opportunity when rock star Mim Bracca arrives looking to hire Dex. Mim’s special guitar has disappeared and Mim doesn’t want to go to the police. Complicating things is the D.E.A. who question Dex, and a gang of skinheads who are also looking to get their hands on the guitar.
The plot is pretty straightforward, with just enough clues for those who like to challenge themselves to be able to solve the mystery before the plot is resolved, but not so overly complicated that it’s impossible to follow. The characters all strike me as real and rather ordinary. In some ways this is a nice change of pace, but it also then borders a little on dull. Having a rock star and skinheads in the story certainly helps to liven it up a bit. And the art conveys the ‘realness’ of the characters and the world.
I really like the idea of a comic/graphic novel that isn’t about superheroes or fantastic fantasy creatures, or even something set in the future. This is, to put it very simply, a detective mystery that is illustrated. A graphic … novel. Yeah, like the genre descriptions implies.
But this also creates some other challenges. When we rely on art to convey the action of the story, we tend to lose out on the descriptive motivation and thought process of the characters. This works in many cases, and is more challenged in others.
I don’t really know who Dex is, even though she’s the ‘star’ of the series. I don’t know what’s motivated her or what keeps her interested in this work. And because I don’t know her, I rely on plot only to keep me interested. And the plot, as I say, is fairly simple.
This is a nice concept all around … story, theme, art … and I will read more (I’d definitely like to go back and read the first volume), but it isn’t a ‘must read’ yet.
Looking for a good book? The graphic novel Stumptown, Volume 2, is a realistic mystery story set in modern-day Portland and features rock stars, skinheads, a smart female detective, and DEA agents and is a fun read.
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Stumptown, Volume 2
author: Greg Rucka
artist: Matthew Southworth
publisher: Oni Press
hardcover, 152 pages