Dry County (#1 – 5) – Rich Tomasso

4 out of 5

‘An everyman crime series,’ the cover tag tells us, also apparently setting up a string of tales featuring said everyman, Lou Rossi.  Tomasso has been kicking back and forth between low-stakes potboilers (maybe… simmer-ers) and oddball genre stuff for years, and Dry County is absolutely an extension of the former… but the confidence and patience he uses in telling this particular tale, which is absorbing, is absolute proof of how much he’s learned over the years.  Not only (next to Spy Seal) is this Tomasso’s best looking work yet, with pitch-perfect layouts, comfortable and yet precise coloring, and you-know-them-right-away visual characterizations, but as he’s grown a bit more oblique over the years with the way he tells his stories, Rich has equally grown more adept at communicating a lot with a little.  So offhand conversations give us all we need; Lou Rossi’s notebook written narration is constant, but combined with the timing of the panels, we’re instantly wrapped up in the full swing of Dry County.

In which: Lou meets a girl; girl has crazy exes; girl disappears.  Cue the search.  But instead of veering through usual noir-ish tropes, Rossi is made to truly embody the everyman, smart enough to take some cautious steps forward, but fully aware that he has no clue how to do any detectivin’.  The same ‘tweak’ comes to the guy-meets-girl setup; Rossi and this dame just go on a few dates before things happen; there’s no overt professions of love or uneccessary valor.  Rossi realizes this quest might just be a distraction, but it’s one he seems to willingly go for.

The setting of our tale is also rather fascinating.  There’s the sweaty, Miami vibe that sits well with this genre, and you’d normally see that set in the 70s… but Rich has set us firmly in the 90s.  Nothing obnoxious beyond VHS, and relative movie and music references, but it further edges along that ‘everyman’ concept by setting it in a more recent, relatable, time, and not a gussied up version of decades previous.

If there is one thing typical of Tomasso, it’s the harried cleanup.  The post script to events is great, but the essentially one page summary of “what happened” is a bit too clear of a reminder that this whole thing was something of a MacGuffin.  It’s rather blunt in comparison to the series’ subtleties, but I’d say Rich does try to clue us in along the way that it ain’t gonna be some grand reveal.

I jumped on the Tomasso train with Dark Corridor, and while I’ve since gone back to read his older stuff and have enjoyed it, I think I stepped in at a great time, watching the creator get better and better with each subsequent series.