Review - The Dregs #1 (@blackmaskstudio)

"Yeah, but he's a prime piece."

There's a constant push towards modernization and urbanization. Many cities present those two as beneficial to the city's livelihood--often at the expense of some of the less fortunate. More often than not, the less fortunate are pushed out at the expense of "progress." For the less fortunate in The Dregs #1 from Black Mask Studio, simply being pushed out is a little more savory to them. The issue is written by Lonnie Nadler and Zac Thompson, illustrated by Eric Zawadzki and colored by Dee Cunniffe.

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.

There are some very timely issues being broached in The Dregs #1, all of which center around the idea of development for the sake of development. There's something to be said about restoring a formerly thriving area to its "glory days," but Nadler and Thompson are more interested in the ripple effects of such development. The writing duo offer a very sinister twist to the otherwise familiar story of the rich brushing aside the poor in the interest of profits. Their story follows Mister Arnold, a homeless man seeking out some of his friends and noting along the way a series of strange events unfolding around him. Setting him as the point of view is pretty powerful and gives the reader a glimpse into the life of the forgotten so to speak; it also allows Nadler and Thompson to instill a bit more terror into the plot.

Illustrating the city with an attention to the "dregs" is Zawadzki. His style is very coarse and gritty, infusing the book with images that resonate with the tale. It's a style that works fantastic in contrasting the disparities between the rich and poor in a way that adds a grimy filter to the action. There are some interesting panel layouts throughout as well that tie the panels into the city more intimately. Cunniffe uses colors that are washed out and somewhat barren, reinforcing the concept that the dregs are often forgotten.

The Dregs #1 is an interesting social commentary couched in something more sinister. Mister Arnold is coming to terms with the notion that the rich will overpay for the privilege of something. Nadler and Thompson have crafted a very strong social statement in the issue that offers a glimpse into the dichotomy of social stratification. Zawadzki's artwork is a good match for the subject matter, capturing the horrors preceding the aforementioned privilege. The Dregs #1 is a dark take on a modern problem that's setting some intrigue up for down the line.

The Dregs #1 is available January 25.