There is no more satisfying sight than a creative team improving on their previous output. The first volume of Stumptown set the bar astronomically high; The Case of the Baby in the Velvet Case surpasses it.
When rock star Mim Bracca walks into the office of Stumptown Investigations with a seemingly open-and-shut case involving her missing ‘baby’ – her prized guitar – Dex Parios is quick to accept the job. After the events of The Case of the Girl Who Took Her Shampoo (But Left Her Mini), which saw Dex take on crime lord Hector Marenco, Portland’s dogged investigator’s list of prospective clients has halved. Quite frankly, whatever the job, she’ll take it. Of course, nothing is ever as simple as it seems – especially not for Dex, who quickly learns it’s not just the guitar that’s gone missing. Several opposing forces, including the DEA and amped-up skinheads, are looking for the guitar and its precious addition, and once again Dex is in the middle of it.
The highlight of The Case of the Baby in the Velvet Case is the high-speed chase between Dex, a couple of skinheads, and the Portland police. While Matthew Southworth’s art isn’t as refined as it was in Stumptown: Volume 1, the diminution of its overall detail is worth it for the vehicular pursuit alone. Perfectly choreographed and perfectly paced, you can feel the acceleration and adrenaline on the page. A long time ago I was told it’s almost impossible to pull off car chases in comics; Greg Rucka and Southworth have put that argument to bed.
Dex winds up the case in routine but satisfying fashion. The journey towards its conclusion, however, is fantastic. There’s no doubt, Greg Rucka is writing the best crime series in comics.