Marcia reviews Stumptown vol. 2, by Greg Rucka, illustrated by Matthew Southworth


It is only in certain circles that one hears Greg Rucka’s name added to the discussion about not-necessarily-heterosexual women in fiction. He stands (in my mind) alongside Gail Simone and Ed Brubaker when listing the writers who have made a positive mark on comics (specifically the DC Universe) when it comes to women. I wrote about Stumptown vol. 1 in February of this year, recommending the book not only to comic book fans but to those who enjoy noir, carefully plotted character pieces, and solid gold heroines — heroines who just happen to be bisexual.

Volume Two picks up soon after volume one — Dex Parrios is still taking cases for hire, still struggling to make a living while caring for her brother Ansel and continuing to dodge the heavy hammer of Marenco’s crime underground. Dex is, as many have noted, a cross-section of many of Rucka’s female characters: plucky, determined, rough around the edges, and playing by her own rules. This is a lot of what makes Dex such a good P.I. on the page and on the job.

In Volume Two, “The Case of the Baby in the Velvet Case” another of “Rucka’s women” previously seen in the novel A Fistful of Rain crosses paths with Dex — Miriam “Mim” Bracca, guitarist for Tailhook. Mim has a history with women, but her true love is Baby, the guitar that has been by her side through the ups and downs of Mim’s career. Confronted with a missing Baby, Mim brings the desperate case to Dex, but seems to be hiding something.

While romance is certainly not front and center here, I enjoyed the flirtatious back and forth between Mim and Dex. I enjoyed knowing that these are not characters defined by presence or lack of sex scenes. These are real women with real attractions, and sometimes it just doesn’t make sense to get hot and heavy while being chased by thugs!

As a previous fan of Stumptown, I didn’t need much convincing to read on, but Rucka (and artist Southworth) still had some treats in store. Dex here reads a little more at ease with herself. If I only had one word to describe volume two it would be fun. A missing guitar doesn’t seem high on the ranks of thrilling adventures, but despite the set-up, Rucka delivers a story full of snark, one-liners, and one of the best car chases I have ever seen.

Published once again by Oni Press, Volume Two will be released in October, and comes with Rucka’s thoughtful prose discussion on the nature of the P.I. story.

Marcia reviews Stumptown Vol 1 by Greg Rucka, illustrated by Matthew Southworth


Dex Parios may be a down-on-her-luck gambler who has put a few too many dollars on the house tab, but she is a talented investigator – and it’s those investigative skills that will get her out of debt, and, unfortunately, into trouble. The volume one of the graphic novel Stumptown, written by Greg Rucka (Gotham Central, Queen & Country) and illustrated by Matthew Southworth (Ares, Infinity, Inc.) is a modern noir taking place in familiar Portland, Oregon – but instead of the whimsical Portland we may be familiar with from IFC series Portlandia, this is a grimmer place filled with real people, not caricatures, more reminiscent of The Killing than “Put a Bird on It.”

When Parios’ debt is called at the Wind Coast, head of operations Sue-Lynne hires Dex to find her missing granddaughter who appears to have left in a hurry, taking just about every important thing she owns but her car. While on Charlotte’s trail, Dex stumbles onto the dark crime underbelly of Portland, a mystery that may end up getting Dex herself killed in the crossfire.

Stumptown is drawn in blues and yellows, with realistic figures and pacing. Those familiar with Rucka’s writing know he is no stranger to the competent-yet-full-fleshed-and-flawed female lead. Parios is no exception. She also happens to be bisexual. There is no underestimating the importance, for me, to be placed on lesbian and bisexual characters in mainstream media. These are stories not necessarily marketed only to us, but giving our stories (as humans who lead full lives, a portion of which involve sexual and emotional attraction to those of our same gender and sex) to an audience that may have them before.

With the release of Stumptown’s second volume just around the corner, I considered this an apt time to recommend the first volume, and Rucka’s work in general. Greg Rucka is one of the few male authors I trust to write not only lesbian and bisexual characters but true feminist narratives. His previous gay-relevant awards are the 2004 Harvey Award for Gotham Central (in which Renee Montoya, Gotham Latina cop and lesbian is outed by a co-worker, and the 2010 GLAAD Media Award for Detective Comics introduction of Batwoman Kate Kane, veteran, Jew, and lesbian.

For those not familiar with the DC Comics universe, Stumptown – which features neither superheroes nor super powers – is a great introduction to graphic novels and to Rucka’s work. For those wanting a great way to ease into the world of Batman and capes, Gotham Central works much like a procedural that just happens to exist in a world where the weekly villains sometimes fly.