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

The Story: Dex Parrios gets closer to a lost guitar and uncovers some more serious criminal activity.

Quick Review: How fussy are you about art?  Can you get “knocked out of the story” by a few little art problems?  If so, you might want to give Stumptown a pass because this is two issues in a row where the art just isn’t getting it done.  That’s really surprising because the art on the first volume of Stumptown was so strong (solid, precise and blessed with moments of inspiration).

The major bug-a-boo with the art in this issue is the protagonist’s face.  Every few panels, we get an image of Dex Parrios where her face isn’t drawn in the middle of her head.  That may seem like a small thing, but the human eye is very good at picking out a screwed up face.  It isn’t just that Dex isn’t drawn to look like a porn star.  It’s that her face changes and moves around.  It’s very unsettling and it really prevented me from enjoying the comic much.  This is a big danger with someone who employs a highly realistic style like Southworth – his margin for error is tiny.   Basically, because everything else in the panel is so literal, the eye is instantly drawn to a funny looking mouth or a misplaced nose.  Faces are SO important.  Think of all the complex emotions we can convey with faces and all the little bits of detail we store in our brain to identify different faces.  You’ve gotta get the faces right or you tap some basic human emotion where things just look wrong.

What’s odd is that the other characters in the comic are much better drawn.  I really don’t know what Southworth was up to with Dex’s face.  Was he overthinking?  Was he trying too hard to NOT have her look like a pornstar?

As for “the story”, it is fine but that is all.  Blessed with stronger art, this would be a keeper.  But, without that artistic contribution, I can’t see a good reason to continue with the series unless you simply must have a private eye story to read.

Conclusion: Very disappointing.  This was a series I was looking forward to since it was first rumored a year or so ago.  The story is okay, but specific elements of the art are holding this back.

Grade: C-

– Dean Stell