"The Dregs #3" Comic Review
Written by James Ferguson
Published by Black Mask Studio
Written by Lonnie Nadler & Zac Thompson
Illustrated by Eric Zawadzki
Colored by Dee Cunniffe
2017, 32 Pages, $3.99
Comic released on May 3rd, 2017
Arnold fumbles through the city, searching for clues. He's trying to find out what happened to his friend and fellow homeless guy, Manny. While doing his best to live up to the pulp detective novels that have entertained him throughout the years, he makes some strange connections to lead him down the path towards solving this case. This is done with some major difficulty as Arnold can't trust his own mind.
Although The Dregs works like a great detective story, the mystery is already spoiled. That was done with the first few pages of issue #1. I brought this up in my review for issue #2 and it continues here. We know what's really going on because the creators showed us, but Arnold has no idea. This takes some of the fun and intrigue out of the story. If anything, it makes it a bit sad, since we're watching this poor man, suffering from drug addiction and most likely some form of mental illness, stumble down dark streets demanding answers from strangers.
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This wouldn't be much of a problem if the secret to Manny's disappearance was brought up and continually referenced. It's not even mentioned in this issue. We only see things through Arnold's perspective and he's not quite there yet. This leaves us impatient to get back to that incredible opener.
What is made abundantly clear throughout The Dregs is how unnatural Arnold's very presence is. He sticks out like a sore thumb with his tattered clothes, unkempt hair, and needle marks along his arms. Dee Cunniffe's colors make him look like a dreary rain cloud marching through a city of sunshine. Everyone else he passes is filled with life and bright color.
Despite the odds stacked against him, Arnold never gives up. He keeps pushing himself. This comes through in his facial expressions. Eric Zawadzki captures the look of exhaustion this man is feeling as he struggles to put one foot in front of the other.
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Zawadzki is the real star of The Dregs. He crams a remarkable amount of panels in some of these pages, each focusing on a specific moment or detail. This turns a basic conversation between two people into a riveting character study. Each panel reveals a little more about them with subtle differences and movements.
The true extent of Arnold's mental issues is not known, but it's clear that he doesn't realize how much they can affect him. There's a sequence towards the end of the issue where Arnold discovers something about this investigation and how long he's been doing it that's absolutely heartbreaking. The look on his face as his mind struggles to come to grips with these facts is one of shock and terror.
The Dregs continues to be a solid albeit unusual detective story. Its one flaw is that it gave away the twist in the very beginning and now we're waiting for the main character to catch up. It's a helluva hook though, so I'm not sure how the comic would read without that knowledge. Some of the leaps Arnold makes are a bit too convenient, like he's putting pieces together that aren't all there to begin with, but he's an interesting enough character to make it all work.