The Dregs #4
Writers: Lonnie Nadler, Zac Thompson
Artist: Eric Zawadski
Colorist: Dee Cunniffe
Publisher: Black Mask Studios
A review by The Comics Agenda Podcast Team
Before any book debuts, there are solicits giving you an idea of what the book is going to be about. It gives you that hook that’s supposed to draw the potential reader in and get them excited for the book. That’s exactly what happened when the first previews and solicits came out for the first issue of The Dregs, and since then, our The Comics Agenda team was hooked. Fast forward a few weeks and we had the chance to interview Lonnie and Zac after reading issue #1 and our interest went from curiosity to a full-on craving for the rest of the story. Finally, a few months later, here we are finishing the final course.
Anelise: To be honest, I was nervous going into this final issue. This has been one of the most surprising and profound comics I’ve read this year, and I had no idea how it was going to end. Was Arnold going to end the cannibalism, become a public hero, and escape poverty? Was a happy ending possible? Well, if you’ve been reading The Dregs, you know that a simple, naïve ending is just not this team’s style. This is a comic with a whole lot of philosophical depth and social critique, and I don’t think they could have ended it better.
Greg: I wasn’t sure what to expect in the final issue. What I found was the perfect ending for the way that this series had gone. Nadler and Thompson took what could have been a straight blood and guts horror comic and instead turned it into a hybrid noir murder mystery that adds in a touch of social issues, such as homelessness, gentrification, and privilege. So, the question leading into issue four was how do things end when all the evidence stacks against you?
Dave: I’m sad to see The Dregs end. It’s hard for me to sum up my feelings after reading the final issue. I do like how the story concluded. It certainly makes you sit back and not only reflect on the previous issues, but makes you reflect on the society that we live in today. There are many questions to be answered, but not all questions deserve answers and in some instances no matter how hard you try, you are never guaranteed resolution.
Anelise: The big confrontation between Arnold and the restaurant gurus was well-written; it moves along at a fast pace without feeling overly explanatory. The wordless panels at the restaurant that are interspersed between these scenes provide the perfect amount of reprieve. Speaking of the art, there’s also a lot of fantastic panel variation here, but it manages to never come across as busy or unnecessary. Everything about this comic feels intentional—even the way that the panel edges are not quite straight. Arnold’s world is anything but certain, yet, as Arnold’s female friend informs him, sometimes there is just a little good in an otherwise bad story, and it is up to Arnold to make a choice: to quit or keep fighting.
Greg: From the first panel in The Dregs #4 you know that this is going to be an intense issue. Every clue, movement and confrontation has been leading up to this point. How is that going to go? I’m assuming no one will predict correctly before reading this series how that confrontation is going to end. The results of the confrontation hit you in the gut and you can’t help but make connections to real life. When you put this book down, it will make you think. The art, as always, is beautiful with some great layouts and unique perspective. Often you feel as if you are looking through Arnold’s eyes as he focuses on small things within a room that then dominate the panel. The final pages feel like they’re meant to confuse and throw off your own perspective as Arnold’s world changes around him before it comes to one final choice.
Dave: I really do have a lot of thoughts on this series. However, without spoiling the events in the final issue, I can’t really share them here. Thompson and Nadler have done a magnificent job of pulling me into Arnold’s world and after the final issue, I would like for them to revisit this story but from the perspective of the upper class that Arnold encounters while trying to solve his friend’s disappearance. I think that would be an interesting turnaround to see the events unfold from the other side. I agree with Anelise in the artwork. The illustrations and colors have been solid from the start.
Buy it! The Dregs is an ambitious comic operating on multiple levels—crime drama, philosophy, sociology, etc.—and it works! Not only does this mean that it will appeal to a lot of different readers, but it’s also a comic that warrants re-reading, as with each issue you are left with at least one more question or thought. The Dregs proves that you can do social critique in a comic without coming across as overly-pushy or dogmatic, and I hope that other comic book teams take note!