Stumptown #5 has Dex getting closer and closer to discovering who attacked her friend Mercury before she screws up in a big way and, then takes matters even more into her own hands.
Previously in Stumptown #4: When Dex’s date causes tension between her and Grey, she has to balance Ansel’s needs with those of her case. Meanwhile, the puzzle pieces start to come together for CK as she gets closer to who assaulted Mercury!
DEX GETS HER BUTT HANDED TO HER AND KICKS BUTT
Greg Rucka opens Stumptown #5 with Dex and CK staking out the ticket scalpers. It’s a tough decision to make whether this small group of people is behaving suspiciously or not, but the women stick to it even as they bicker amongst themselves. One of Rucka’s great strength in this issue and for the length of the Stumptown series is the biting dialogue. Dex and CK are allies and rely on each other heavily in this enterprise, but it’s nye on impossible for these women to be cordial.
Stumptown #5 continues with Dex and CK following their suspects to a parking garage and continuing their distanced observation and personal sniping. Rucka treats series readers to an admission by Dex about the result of her time in service to her country. It is not necessarily the most earth-shattering revelation if you are familiar with Dex and her character history, that being said, the magnitude of Dex’s willingness to confide in CK after all the time they’ve spent together as team is meaningful and makes what may otherwise be a throwaway line a powerful moment in the issue.
There is something that Rucka does a lot in his creator-owned projects – he has female protagonists. These protagonists are often in careers that would traditionally be considered male (Forever as her family’s guardian in Lazarus also springs to mind), and they read as having a stunted emotional life as a result of their tough-guy occupations. This characteristic is definitely present in Dex (and in CK), and it is her own restraint and inability to process emotions in what most readers would consider to be a healthy way that lends the credence to these small emotional moments, like the one I referenced above. This quality that Rucka brings to Stumptown #5 gives the issue a much more emotional impact than I expected.
I’m not going to go into much more detail about the stake out in Stumptown #5, suffice it to say that Dex and CK are found out and forced to move on and pursue a different investigative track. En lieu of this failure Dex elects to take a more direct approach to her off the book police work. With CK present for back up – she utterly refuses to be left behind – Dex goes to Oscar’s home to address her prime suspect face-to-face. She spends the remainder of the issue proving that women have as much physical as emotional strength and Rucka is able to have Dex try and make up for her earlier investigative failure, such as it would seem.
The final page in Stumptown #5 does an excellent job at reminding readers what is at stake for Dex where helping Mercury is concerned and why Rucka has chosen to write us this story.
Justin Greenwood should draw mystery stories forever. The sketchy quality of his linework in Stumptown #5 makes Portland feel alive and visceral, as if it is throwing dirt off and leaving its marks on the characers that populate the issue. This makes the city itself as much as character as Dex, CK or Oscar, which is a quality often present in Rucka’s narrative as well.
Dex and CK are solid characters. As women of differing ethnic backgrounds they appear strikingly different on the page, but at no point do they appear to be push overs. When Dex is moved to physical violence you, as a reader, know that she can handle herself.
Stumptown #5 is grim under Greenwood’s hand and even though it is not a classic noir aesthetic that he puts on the page, the issue very much has the feeling that danger lurks in every shadow.
THE BOTTOM LINE: A MOVING ISSUE
Stumptown #5 evoked more pathos in me than I expected, which made for an utterly satisfying read. Rucka and Greenwood are a well-oiled machine telling a great mystery. It is worth your time to take a look at.