This is the final issue of "The Case of the Girl Who Took Her Shampoo But Left Her Mini" and it takes an interesting twist because much of the mystery has been explained already. We know who the girl is, where she is running, and why, and yet there is still plenty of story to go as the initial head scratcher of any pulp is never the meat of the tale. There’s always the second go at the trouble, and this issue offers up plenty of trouble.
"Stumptown" has been compared to Chandler and rightfully so. This is the sort of comic Hard Case Crime would put out if they ever swung the way of the four color world. We have the grizzled lead, Dex Parios, who thinks she’ll get to the cabin and find the girl but, instead, finds the cabin. However, we are given a nice establishing shot and one quick moment of Dex soaking in her surroundings.
Dex constantly looks like she has the bottom hand but that may be by choice. She’s like a noir MacGyver assessing and using whatever is in proximity to best help her out, whether it’s now or much later. It’s cleverly written by Rucka and works well to make Dex seem smart but real, not some insane genius of staggering intellect. I mean, it seems her plan nearly hinges on her getting punched at least twice, hard. Dex is just a girl who knows how to make lemonade out of old juice boxes and some elbow grease and that sort of gravity in a character is to be applauded.
In the end, this case is about family. We see the patriarch of the Marenco family so disappointed in his daughter and his son and ultimately it’s not about Dex or the case anymore; this is a coda of familial blood and its spilling. Rucka does a great job of showing us the emotion between all these characters and through just a few words you understand exactly what being a Marenco must be like. And you know how it will always end for the Marencos of this world.
Matthew Southworth offers up a solid variety of scope in his pages and finds time to shine in many places. There’s one a page within Dex’s addled state that gives us something different with the delivery of her world. It shows that Southworth should play with page layouts more. His work in the final sequence at the torch-lit beach made me feel like I was in an old EC "Crime SuspenStory" issue. I’m hoping Southworth can fight through and make the next arc, "The Case of the Baby in the Velvet Case," a little more consistent with shipping.
This issue is a solid end, and great value at 32 pages of story (no ads) for $3.99 with 4 pages of back matter chatter and rough art. It makes me feel like Rucka is going to make this series a more grounded throwback to genuine gumshoe fare like "The Rockford Files," and I couldn’t be happier. Dex is a character to watch and her opening case is a slow tumble down the spiral staircase of family and black blood.