For stringers, people who make a living arriving first on the scene and taking footage of crime scenes and ragging fires, they’re finally getting the cameras turned on themselves and their profession in the eye of pop culture. The film Nightcrawler debuted a few years ago, starring Jake Gyllenhaal and Rene Russo, and the crime thriller garnered critical acclaim and even an Academy Award nomination. Meanwhile in the comic book medium, writer Marc Guggenheim got inspired to write Stringers after listening to an NPR story while driving to work at CSI: Miami. The idea to tell a story revolving around stringers and the type of work they do really captivated Guggenheim at the time, then proceeded to collect dust for 10 years.
During that time, Guggenheim’s career exploded in both comics and television, and just as he was getting around to finding an artist for his Stringers comic miniseries, Dan Gilroy’s Nightcrawler hits theaters. Talk about timing! The foreword in the Stringers trade paperback includes Guggenheim cursing both Gilroy and Gyllenhaal to the high heavens for beating him to the punch, when in fact both stories being released a year apart was nothing but pure coincidence, not artistic thievery. And while both stories follow stringers in Los Angeles, they both go completely different directions.
Nick and Paul have been partners for years, but couldn’t be more different personality-wise. Nick is a young and cocky smartass, while Paul is the professional one of the two. Nick drives like a madman and Paul shoots the footage, and together they’re the best stringers money can buy. After filming a car chase that evolves into a shootout between the LAPD and the MS-13 gang, Nick gets closer to the action for better footage and grabs a thumb drive that falls from a dying gangster in the process. When approached by two shady detectives after the chaos, Nick gets a bad feeling about the officers and high-tails it out of there. Now on the run, Nick and Paul have to figure out why the detectives are so adamant about obtaining their footage, and what exactly is on the thumb drive.
While there are similarities between Stringers and Nightcrawler—rival stringers, unwanted advances between stringers and the female station managers, both stories set in Los Angeles—Guggenheim’s story goes the route of corrupt detectives and gang warfare, while keeping the pace fast and furious for what’s ultimately an action-packed mystery. Artist Justin Greenwood (Stumptown) keeps the characters and Los Angeles nightlife setting gritty with just the right amount of sketchy, while illustrating the action sequences as if they were storyboards for the eventual movie adaptation. Greenwood delivers the shootouts, car chases, and fight scenes in spades, but ultimately it’s Ryan Hill’s coloring that sets the appropriate tone of the book. Greenwood’s art and Hill’s colors mesh together beautifully, making the art the most enjoyable part of the book.
The only thing I took issue with the comic was the lettering. The sound effects aren’t your typical Blam! Blam! Blam!’s and Screeeech!’s, but rather BallsOutChaseAt90MPH and PaulsPhoneRings. I don’t fault the letterer Crank!, I fault Guggenheim for including it in the first place. I understand if he didn’t want to use the same old sound effects for this comic, but because he tried being innovative by replacing effects with what’s causing the sounds, it comes off as extremely distracting and tedious since it’s throughout the entire story. Others might not take issue with it, but I certainly didn’t enjoy it.
Overall, Stringers is a nice companion piece for Nightcrawler, and vice versa. Guggenheim has a different, unique take on the stringer profession, so readers shouldn’t be put-off by the few similarities that both film and comic share. Like Greg Rucka’s Stumptown, Greenwood’s art fits perfectly in yet another crime noir mystery published by Oni Press. The trade includes a cover gallery in the back, including both original covers and variants of the 5-issue miniseries. It’s available to purchase at Oni’s online store, as well as Amazon.