Collective Consciousness: The Dregs #1

by stephengervais on January 24, 2017

Welcome back to Collective Consciousness, our weekly article where the staff takes one comic and puts it under the microscope. This allows us, and you, faithful reader, to get a good idea of how the comic fares against a variety of opinions. This week we're taking a look at new series from Black Mask Studios, The Dregs #1.
Black Mask solicit: “In this bloodsoaked satire of gentrification, an exclusive new restaurant called Pijin becomes the hottest spot in town by serving high-end dishes of human flesh. Where is the meat coming from? No one knows for sure, but a drug addled homeless man named Arnold Timm notices his friends disappearing and is determined to find out if they’re being fed to the rich.”
Written by: Zac Thompson and Lonnie Nadler
Art by: Eric Zawadzki
Publisher: Black Mask Studios
Ryan Lahaise
I'm all for more artistic comic books bridging the gap between the two mediums, but this book I was a little put off by how graphic it was. I couldn't quite figure out if it was trying to be serious or not. It reads very much like a documentary on the people living on the streets of Vancouver, but also a reads like a noir comic with a pretty out there story. Our main character has been through a lot and being a street person no one even treats him like he exists. One of his friends goes missing and he takes it on himself to solve the mystery. But how much can a person living on the streets addicted to drugs be able to separate what's real and what's in their head? There are moments in this book that would freak any regular person out if they saw them in real life. The main character talks about not being able to handle it but there is no real reaction from him to support what he says he is feeling. I found that a lot in this book and that most of the graphic moments were just there for shock value and didn't contain any substance or emotions. I was nice to see a book that takes place in a city I used to live in myself, but beyond that this book is a complete pass in my opinion.

I am completely unfamiliar with the creative team on this book, but I absolutely need to know more about them. Their story starts with a very “five minutes into the future” kind of feeling, and a setting that fans of filmmaking will giggle nervously about. There’s a dark sort of black humor in placing a murder mystery about gutter punks on the relentlessly clean and polite streets of Vancouver, BC. Most Americans tend to think of our northern neighbors as the Ned Flanders of the world stage, always ready with a “hi-dilly ho!” or a friendly hand. We forget that pretty much any major metro area filled with humans will have its seamy underbelly.
Both the art and the writing on this book pulled me in, but fair warning that it’s a mistake to read it over dinner (as I did).  I did enjoy the way that the stuff in full color and daylight was drawn to look more “cartoony” than what takes place after dark. Despite what appears to be a drug-induced haze, it still seems more real than anything else. I also enjoyed the ongoing references to Raymond Chandler’s novels. If the excellence of this book is an anomaly, I really hope the next two issues prove to be a coincidence and a pattern, respectively.
Kalem Lalonde
The Dregs #1 is a new indie book from writers Zac Thompson, Lonnie Nadler, and artist Eric Zawadzki that explores the treatment of the most vulnerable members of society, the homeless. This is a comic book so of course there is genre horror included in the story but at its core, this book successfully transports readers into the lives of the drug-addicted homeless. There is almost nothing but pity for the characters who roam the dregs making for a very uncomfortable read. This alone leads The Dregs #1 for a successful comic but it also presents its lead with a deliberately bewildering thought process. We don’t know whether he’s crazy, or he’s actually onto something. This brings a greater mystery to the plot and gives readers an incentive to see where the story is headed in issue #2. The Dregs #1 is a successful debut to what will hopefully become a successful independent comic.
Forrest Hollinsworth
After a downright shocking first few pages, this introductory issue settles into a properly uncomfortable and gritty rebuke of modern day corporatism and gentrification that, while honest and I’m sure quite based in dramatized truths, won’t turn heads. It’s a compelling enough plot and the cannibalistic symbolism here, so far, is in keeping with the story’s themes and tone but the issue’s narration, despite trying its hardest, fails to make the reader care about our main character or his missing friend – it lacks a certain human element. Thankfully, the art is appropriately morose and macabre. A grisly portrait of a city in both growth and decay, an opening salvo that made me wince – it’s good stuff, the downtrodden, chiseled characters and their lives awash in this carefully chosen palate, not dissimilar to the efforts of last year’s House of Penance. Ultimately, an uneven first issue that misses a compelling narrative element but does nearly make up for it with on-the-nail artistic endeavors.
Jason James
The Dregs was a good book. I thoroughly enjoyed the story. It was well written, and the dialogue was really good. The art was pretty good as well, with an interesting style. My only complaint is that I don't really care for that much gore, especially that early in a book. It was a little jarring but aside from that tiny personal preference problem, it was an attention capturing read that set up its character very well, and the ending leaves me wanting to find out what happens next. Also makes me not want to visit Vancouver's east side, not that that would be an option regardless, this is a very bleak realistic portrayal of a notoriously bad neighbourhood. Well done all around.
The great thing about this CC for someone like me, who is only used to reading Marvel or DC, it turns me on to new and interesting indie titles. First thing I would tackle is the art, for me I wasn’t a fan of the main images; however there were subtle hints in the background and the use of colours that really elevated the art. The story basically explores the life of a homeless person, and really makes you understand their struggle a bit more. This book gives a particular importance to the idea, that really when a homeless person dies, pedestrians don’t really notice. This is explored through the main character, Arnold and his friend Manny. For people like me who also like the detective aspects of things in books, it was interesting to see how Arnold tried to think through where Manny was. In summary the book was really good, something I will continue reading and something I highly recommend.
Aaron Reese
Writers Lonnie Nadler and Zac Thompson attempt to do something different with one the most famous genres: the noir. It is successful in the most important way. It manages to be different while keeping the reader interested. The main character is a homeless drug addict trying to solve a missing persons case. I’ll admit, I have not seen that before.

The art is gratuitously gory, but why have a story involving cannibalism that isn’t violent? Despite the alternately out-of-place literary references and on-the-nose cult references, it functions well as a gumshoe yarn even though the main character lives an incredibly self-destructive life.

Sometimes I wish writers avoided all attempts to be clever. They need not tie their stories to the works of literary titans (with the quotes from Jonathan Swift and references to Raymond Chandler). Telling a simple story well will do just fine. Despite its tendency to bloviate on occasion by commenting on social shortcomings of civilized society, it’s a decent conspiracy mystery thus far.


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