June 22, 2015

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Quick Hits: Stumptown 6 from Rucka/Greenwood/Hill, Robert Moses by Christin and Balez, and Harrow County by Bunn and Crook

Welcome to another week of Quick Hits, and we're very pleased today to have "Weekend Pattering" star Scott Cederlund on board for his first-ever contributions to the column! We'll lead off with Scott's look at the 6th issue of the current run of Stumptown...


Stumptown #6
Written by Greg Rucka
Drawn by Justin Greenwood
Colored by Ryan Hill
Lettered by Crank!
Published by Oni Press

One of the best things that Greg Rucka is doing with Stumptown is he’s writing stories that only make sense in the Pacific Northwest and specifically Portland.  The newest story that kicks off in Stumptown #6, “The Case of a Cup of Joe,” sees our favorite P.I. named after a drug Dex Parios taking on a case where she has to protect a 3 pound sample of designer coffee.  Following a story about soccer and its fandom in the previous issues, Rucka writing about coffee seems like the next logical step for a story set near the homebase of Starbucks.  After almost having to do a reintroduction into Dex’s Portland in the last five issues, this issue feels more like the first Stumptown stories, giving us more about Dex and her messed up family as this issue introduces another member of the Parios clan.  Rucka’s writing, always clean and rugged, is  best when it is character focused.  You get the sense that he never writes a character without knowing exactly who they are and that includes even the most minor henchmen that are trying to beat Dex to the coffee that’s so special that it needs a bodyguard.

Justin Greenwood’s more exaggerated artwork was quite a shift after the first couple of storylines drawn by Matthew Southworth with his more shaded realistic style.  Greenwood has settled into the book now, making it his.  His characters feel natural, always a nice pairing with Rucka’s personality focused writing.  In Lazarus (another great book written by Rucka,) Michael Lark’s drawings partner with Rucka’s writing to produce a very cinematic experience.  HIs artwork flows through that story, propelling the narrative to the forefront.  Greenwood eases more into Rucka’s story as everyone’s interaction to their environment (Portland, the houses, offices or stores they’re in, and even to the characters that they’re sharing the scenes with) becomes much more relational-based in their compositions.  For as much as Stumptown #6 is about very special coffee, it’s also about Dex’s closeness or distance with her family, her client and enemies.  Greenwood’s storytelling places the characters in relation to one another, not just physically but also emotionally. (Review by Scott Cederlund)


Robert Moses: The Master Builder of New York City
Written by Pierre Christin
Line Art by Olivier Balez 
Published by Nobrow Press

We owe much of our modern, grittily romantic vision of New York City to Robert Moses, perhaps the most powerful urban planner of the twentieth century. He’s responsible for parks, project, pools and bridges, worked to make the city more accessible by car and to the world and (somewhat indirectly) less accessible to those in poverty. He had his hands in every urban improvement project for much of the mid-twentieth century, and had a hand in the transition of New York from a city of working class immigrants to a center for world class business. Robert Moses: The Master Builder of New York City written by Pierre Christin and illustrated by Olivier Balez walks the truly ambivalent line of marveling at Moses’ power and accomplishment and mourning the New York that his roads steamrolled over and the citizens he  displaced. It’s more direct about representing Moses’ general
unpleasantness - born to privilege and always seeking more acceptance, recognition and control, Moses was a pushy and powerful man who made many enemies and got a million things done.  But this book would not work without, and indeed, succeeds on, the power of Olivier Balez’s precise, full-color, mid-century style illustrations that capture postcard worthy views of Moses’ projects and a changing New York, as well as shadowy snapshots of his political negotiations. With a light narrative touch, this reads quickly and satisfyingly - it’s not a comprehensive biography, and owes much of its narrative to Robert Caro’s The Power Broker, but it is a well-crafted outline of a man with a tremendous legacy, ambivalent in intent, but breathtaking in scope. (Review by Emilia Packard)


Harrow County #2
Written by Cullen Bunn
Drawn, Colored and Lettered by Tyler Crook
Published by Dark Horse Comics

Tyler Crook’s painted coloring is the true star of Harrow County #2.  In the rural, supernatural noir that he and Cullen Bunn are creating, Crook’s coloring really establishes the tone of this story as his watercolor approach gives this issue a life to it that you just don’t see in most modern (and digitally) colored comics.  Set on a farm where Emmy, the farmer’s young daughter, may or may not be the reincarnation of a witch that he and many others killed 18 years ago, Crook’s paintings are both natural and otherworldly.  He gives the characters a life they just wouldn’t have through the line drawings.  As Emmy runs out of a haunted woods, the red scratches and cuts that she gets stand out against her already ruddy cheeks.  Blood runs through these characters and Crook isn’t afraid to show that.  These aren’t just fleshed-color drawings.  Crook’s coloring shows the vibrancy of these characters as Emmy and her father have to wonder just how his actions of 18 years ago are now affecting his daughter today.

As well as adding life to this story, Crook’s colors also hide the horror of this comic in its shadows, slowly revealing just what really lives in those dark spaces.  The shadows hide those horrors in the shadows but never obscure them.  It’s not like he’s drawing horrible, disgusting things in those shadows but he’s creating suspense in them.  The shadows and the night are a completely different world than Emmy’s home is during the day.  The ways that Crook paints this story gives it both its vibrancy as well as its dread. The colors are the life of these characters but they are also what hides just what is lurking behind the doors and walls of the family farm.

Cullen Bunn continues to be a chameleon like storyteller but Harrow County #2 feels like we may be seeing the real Cullen Bunn, horror writer.  And that’s kind of scary.  His voice here feels like that of a true storyteller and whether it’s this, The Sixth Gun, Sinestro or The Remains, that’s what Bunn is; a storyteller.  Harrow County is the story that you hear, huddled around a campfire as the storyteller plays to his environment as much as he does his audience.  Only the sounds of nature, an owl’s hoot or the rustle of something moving just outside of the light of the fire, are the only things which interrupt and ultimately enhance the storyteller’s tale.  That’s the best way to describe what Bunn is doing in this issue as what was already sinister in the first issue just continues to get darker and darker in this issue as Emmy doesn’t understand just how her life is changing or how her father is involved in it. (Review by Scott Cederlund)