On the second-to-last day of 30 in 30, I’m looking back on another favorite of mine from 2017—The Dregs. A book could not be more different AND similar to yesterday’s Spencer & Locke. This tale of gentrification and addiction straddles so many lines, from noir to mystery, from torture porn to literary. It flew a bit under the radar, but that doesn’t mean it’s any less of a modern classic.
Title: The Dregs
Storytellers: Lonnie Nadler, Zac Thompson, & Eric Zawadzki
Publisher: Black Mask Studios
Year of Publication: 2017
Page Count: 127
A gentrified city. Its homeless population restricted to six square blocks called The Dregs. When people start disappearing, a drug-addled homeless man obsessed with detective fiction becomes addicted to solving the mystery. Equal parts Raymond Chandler and Don Quixote set in a thriving metropolis that literally cannibalizes the homeless, The Dregs is the first homeless meta noir ever made.
SPOILERS FOR THE DREGS BELOW
What I learned about Comic Book Storytelling in Writing
Nadler and Thompson tackle some big (and tough) topics in this book. Homelessness. Addiction. Gentrification. Corruption. The list goes on. Much to their credit, though, the book never feels like it’s preaching at the reader. Part of the reason this is true is because rather than call attention to any one of these items, they instead build them into the narrative. The reader sees these things and experiences them with the protagonist, rather than being told about them. Also, and again to their credit, Nadler and Thompson never tell the reader how to feel about these things. Information is experience, and the reader is left to make their own decisions about how to feel, much like the protagonist is left with a final decision at the end of the book.
What I learned about Comic Book Storytelling in Art
Zawadzki draws a book that shouldn’t work. It seamlessly flows between different art styles and genres throughout. One of the biggest influences on all aspects of the book is noir. There are parts of the book where Zawadzki has to transition between his own cartoon-y-yet-realistic style and a more hazy, realistic noir style. He transitions slowly, over the course of a few panels, rather than a hard cut from one style to the other. Part of the reason these different styles can coexist is because they are handled so well. There’s nothing jarring about going between them.
Recommendation: A (Must Read)
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