By: Greg Rucka (writer), Matthew Southworth (art) and Rico Renzi & Southworth (colors)

The Story: The final chapter of the inaugural PI adventure of Dex Parios draws to a close as she tries to get to the bottom of a missing woman who has gotten entangled with the MS-13 gang.

What’s Good: This is a good solid PI/detective story and it has some very nice things that make it different from similar comics in this genre.  For one thing, it has a very realistic female lead.  Dex Parios is a great character and I hope that Rucka keeps feeding us stories about her.  What makes Dex so great are how different she is from what we’re used to seeing from female comic characters: She doesn’t have DD boobs, she isn’t wearing spandex, she isn’t promiscuous, she’s pretty but doesn’t do a thing to clean herself up, etc.  And….she’s got some pretty major issues in her life (which she pours out in the best scene of this comic book).  In fact, we all probably know someone like Dex and that makes this a unique book.

This book also has a lot of very nicely done dialog.  I enjoyed the interplay between Dex and the other two key women of this series, Isabelle (the gang leader’s daughter) and Charlotte (the missing woman), but the star of this series was the back-n-forth between Dex and the MS-13 crime lord as you could see how much this bloodthirsty man respected Dex’s spunk, bravado and nothing-to-lose attitude.

What’s Not So Good: This book is going suffer a little bit because it came out the same week at Last Days of American Crime #3.  These two delayed series both started at a similar time last fall but whereas LDoAC made me wish the story could have been a few panels longer, this story just kinda ended with me thinking, “That’s nice.”  In other words, it wasn’t an ending that had me drooling for the next chapter.  I want to be very clear that I didn’t think the ending to the story was bad, it just didn’t blow me away and after the high standard and promise of the earlier issues of this series (and the end of LDoAC) I was a bit disappointed to not get something better.

I also thought the art took a step back in this issue.  Again, it isn’t bad art, but it looks a lot muddier and less defined than in earlier issues.

Finally, I’m going to pick at the publication schedule.  Stumptown #1 came out in November 2009.  At that rate, this should just be an OGN because I lose the story a little bit.  Or at least give us a recap page.  I’ve probably read 500 comic books since issue #3 came out.  I know that the economics of books like this need the hype of: “Stumptown #1 is out!!!!” followed by bells chiming for each successive issue and finally THE TRADE, but it is annoying to me as a single issue buyer.

Conclusion: This series set a very high standard with earlier issues and didn’t quite close the deal as strongly as I would have liked.

Grade: B-

– Dean Stell