Publisher: Image Comics (Skybound imprint)
Writer/Artist: Dan Panosian
Release Date: 4th October 2017
Stanley Dance is one of those guys. Always working some kind of angle and always making the wrong choices, but doing it with a devilish smile, all the while praying that this isn’t the time that his luck finally runs out.
But when Stanley gets a call for help from an old acquaintance, he instantly drops what he’s doing and heads back to Vegas – a city filled with ghosts and bad blood – to make sure he lives up to a promise he made years ago. Because while he might be the kind of person who skips out on paying a restaurant bill by leaving a set of fake car keys as collateral, Stanley Dance is not the kind of person to break a promise.
This feels like something of a passion project for creator Dan Panosian, gleefully filling the ‘one-man band’ role as he tackles the writing, artwork and colouring duties. It has to be said that – to this point, at least – the story itself isn’t necessarily anything to write home about, but it’s Panosian’s work on the characters that really makes this series stand out. Everything is focused on making us care about Stanley, even though, on paper, he probably shouldn’t be all that likeable a person. He’s a charming sort of grifter, and the rogueish confidence he exudes throughout the course of this first issue gives him a real sense of magnetism helps keep the pages turning rapidly until the end.
The artwork also fits the tone of the story beautifully, with Panosian’s scratchy linework filled with imperfections, much like the characters he’s drawing. The colour palette he uses is suitably washed-out, all soft reds and muted browns, and while he perhaps leans a little too heavily into the ‘screentone’ effect of shading (for my personal taste, at least), the overall aesthetic is still a great fit for a title like this.
This first issue sets up an intriguing inter-generational dynamic, both with Stanley and Betsy, the woman he’s helping out, and it’s going to be interesting to see Panosian expand on that in the issues to come. As I mentioned, the narrative falls into the well-worn ‘Vegas crime caper’ tropes that we all know and love, but again, it’s Stanley himself who is poised to elevate this series into something special, and his quick one-liners and aging Clint Eastwood/Jack Nicholson-esque good looks make him a truly fascinating protagonist.
Ultimately then, while the story itself isn’t exactly revolutionary, Slots boasts an utterly intriguing leading man and a distinctive visual style, both of which make it a new series well worth taking a gamble on.