Image: Eric Zawadzki/Black Mask Studios

By Matthew C. Brown. “Lipstick is the blood of the poor on the lips of the idle rich.” One of my father’s friends said that to him in the 1970s. The statement was a parody of hyperbolic socialist tracts. Unfortunately it’s still necessary that it ring true in today’s political climate.

Considering said climate the subject matter of The Dregs is all the more critical to the discussion, but don’t worry; it doesn’t read like some sort of manifesto or pamphlet. This meaty mystery is as entertaining as it is crucial, but let’s not worry ourselves with all of that. Right now Manny, a homeless man who stayed on Columbia Street, is missing. Nobody knows where he went, or if they do, they don’t care.

The Dregs takes place in present day Vancouver, British Columbia, where, in reality, there has been a serious opioid addiction/overdose crisis going on for some time now. Though this story is mired very much in the reality of poverty, drug addiction, and gentrification, it lives in a heightened satirical world of class warfare and cannibalism.

After the gruesome prologue, writers Lonnie Nadler and Zac Thompson quote from Jonathan Swift’s A Modest Proposal (1729), in which Swift proposed (satirically) to British lords that to solve the poverty crisis in Ireland they ought to start eating Irish babies of a certain vintage and plumpness. Quoting Swift places the work in a rich history of likeminded satire. That was enough to get me hooked like the drug addled homeless man through whose detective eyes we see this noir world. It also doesn’t hurt that the book is beautifully drawn and colored.

The art makes the book simultaneously scrumptious and nauseating. At the beginning you get a nice detailed look into sausage making, and it keeps up its unabashed gruesomeness for most of the book. It is more grounded and grittier than Grant Morrison’s The Invisibles, but is seen through a similarly marginalized (re: homeless) kaleidoscopic lens. The panels also have an intentionality and rhythm that make the work dynamic and cinematic. Not to mention reverent to noir classics. If you’re into dark satire like Sweeney Todd and American Psycho, take a bite out of this Canadian baby. It pairs well with fava beans and a nice chianti.

Black Mask Studios/$3.99

Written by Zac Thompson and Lonnie Nadler.

Art by Eric Zawadzki.

Colors by Dee Cunniffe.

9 out of 10