"The Dregs #1" Comic Review
Written by James Ferguson
Published by Black Mask Studios
Written by Lonnie Nadler and Zac Thompson
Illustrated by Eric Zawadzki
Colored by Dee Cunniffe
2016, 32 Pages
Comic released on January 25th, 2017
Arnold wakes up groggy and confused. He's lying half on the ground and half in a beat-up old cardboard box. Old paperback crime novels and drug paraphernalia are strewn about nearby. This is where we find our protagonist for The Dregs. Somehow he's able to pull himself together and look around at the world, only to find that one of his friends has gone missing. Arnold starts searching for the man using the skills he's picked up from reading dog-eared detective paperbacks, but is he ready for what he might find?
What I'm not going to reveal here are the chilling contents of the first few pages of The Dregs. Those aren't included in the previews shown here, so they'll be best experienced firsthand. They set the stage for a gruesome potential outcome for Arnold as well as the other homeless people living in the area. What's striking is the normalcy of it. These pages are presented with a minimal amount of dialogue, with the last few completely wordless.
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The rest of The Dregs plays like an old-school private eye story with Arnold filling the role of the battered detective. The kicker though is that it's unclear how much of what he sees is really happening. He could be crazy. He is, after all, high on a strange drug half the time. He puts pieces together pretty quickly that don't seem to make a total connection. I'm curious as to where he goes with it and if he's just nuts or on to something.
Artist Eric Zawadzki's look for Arnold makes him standout in every panel. He's unlike anyone else around him, covered in dirt and scars. You can almost smell his odor. He is the kind of guy you'd cross the street to avoid, not because he looks dangerous, but because he just looks unpleasant. He's often seen hunched over, as if his years of hard living are physically weighing him down.
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This, coupled with Dee Cunniffe's colors, makes for a pulp-infused comic harkening back to the hey-day of noir classics like The Maltese Falcon and The Big Sleep. This is especially true with the cool blues of the night scenes. Arnold looks faded, like the world around him is trying to erase him from existence. He sticks out in a city full of life and vibrant colors. He's an out-of-place raisin in a chocolate chip cookie.
The Dregs works as a modern day noir tale with a light horror twist. I'm dying to see that piece expanded upon. For now, we've got a solid detective story with an untraditional main character. Arnold is grouchy, unclean, and drug-addled, yet his mind is racing a mile a minute. He might be crazy, but he just might be on to something.