From start to finish, Dan Panosian’s Vegas-based boxing brouhaha of a comic has been a personal favourite of mine over the last six months, what with its old school pulp fiction sensibilities to the art and layout of the comic right down to it’s 70’s cinematic feel; when American cinema was knocking out character-driven films like Raging Bull, Marathon Man and the like. Kitchen sink dramas rather than glossy blockbusters, with earthy, lived in and often down-and-out characters that reflected that more paranoid and sleazy decade. But, while Slots is very much a modern day book, Stan’s son, Lucy, and Mercy keep it fresh and in the now. And, at it’s heart is a story of a man’s attempts at redemption and family reunion. Or at least the slender hope of a reunion.
Slots #6 sees the dead beat Stanley Dance seemingly knocked down and out for the count as his plan to stiff his arch rival and one time friend, Les, seems to be in tatters, like his return to boxing, and once again Stanley ends up where the series started: in the desert looking down the barrel of a gun. His gun. And once again, whatever is going through his mind this time sees him return to the city of sin with a further shaky plan that has as much chance of coming off as the first. Only this time, he’s now got less than an issue to pull it off. Once again, Stan gets into the ring. And maybe for the last time.
Tensions run high and, if you’re like me and come to love this roguish scoundrel for the man he has become, rather than the man he once was, then you’ll be rooting for him too, even though those around him are possibly less ready to believe. After all, why change the habit of a lifetime, right? Surely his luck has run out?
The story Panosian has forged over the past half a year remains cinematic in its narrative and in its art. Hell, it even has a closing credit sequence, of sorts, so don’t stop reading when you hit the series’ ending. The letters page, as an epilogue, is served up that could easily suggest, if successful enough a book, that some of the characters could easily climb back into the ring, so to speak.
Panosian has developed a cast of characters you wouldn’t necessarily like in the real world. But then, Vegas is hardly the real world, and one imagines it’s an environment where you get street smart quickly or you don’t survive. A city that’s all bling and booty up front, but far more desperate under the veneer. Stanley and the gang represent these desperate people who are just about surviving and having to hustle if they’re to evolve. They’ve all felt some degree of hurt and betrayal in their lives and become harder because of it.
And, like a sucker punch, you may not see the ending coming, but it’s one that wouldn’t be out of place in Vegas, where it can sometime pay to dust yourself off and get right on back up and pray to Lady Luck one more time. Regardless of the odds.
Slots #6 is out this week from Image Comics.