"Stumptown" #1 is the start of the second volume of the book and quickly takes off with "The Case of the Baby in the Velvet Case," the name of which was presented two years ago when the last case wrapped. I have to take my hat off to Greg Rucka for keeping me clueless as to what it meant this whole time and now making me completely happy with what it's all about. This new case for Dex Parios, Private Investigator, is most assuredly not what it appears -- there are whirring cogs and alarms moving behind the scenes that will definitely offer more obstacles than answers.
Greg Rucka makes a bold move by not resting on everything set up in the previous case as an easy entry. He doesn't rest on his laurels, introducing new characters and building new threats for the future. It's fantastic because it makes "Stumptown" #1 a great jumping on point as the book isn't continuing so much as borrowing a little. The reset to a new #1 issue is truly deserved and indicative of what is offered.
The mystery of the "Baby in the Velvet Case" rises up quickly and it's a great idea delivered through the sucker punch of the title. Dex is instantly on the case and she doesn't hesitate. Having such a strong and bold lead does wonders for the narrative as she flows straight into the action. The issue plunges into some heavy action and ends on a very strong beat. There is most definitely more to this case than Dex realized when she took it on and the hidden aspects are tantalizingly teased.
The art style of this book is different than the first volume as Matthew Southworth experiments with layouts on a few occasions. The opening splash of punk rock music coming to sequential life is intriguing and just flat out gorgeous. This is immensely helped by the wonderful colors of Rico Renzi, a colorist who knows how to bring tone and life to the seedier side of things, making them something new. Rain settling over some dive bar suddenly becomes an exciting adventure.
The world of "Stumptown" is alive and breathing but far too often the inhabitants look a little washed out. Southworth's faces are sour and bland to the point of becoming distracting in a handful of panels. The expression of the scene usually makes it across, but is obscured in places due to a lack of detail. It's a shame because the rooms and establishing shots are so well drafted and executed.
The back matter by Rucka is both endearing and extremely helpful in unpacking the tone and texture of the book. It can help the reader to see where Rucka is coming from on this book and the opportunity to peek into his mind is not to be missed.
"Stumptown" #1 is off to a fine start. There are enough threads on this case to keep Dex and every reader busy right up until the end. While the first case was all about family and bonds, this case is more about an individual and the possibility of value assigned to belongings by others. The parts are all assembled in this installment and the next issue will hopefully capitalize with Dex right in the middle of every page as the strangely arresting glue that holds the book together.