James F. Wright’s Breaking Bad meets Brick with witty teenage girls plot escalates in Nutmeg #5 as Poppy and Cassia break one of the cardinal rules of a drug (or dessert food) kingpin and get high on their own supply making NWA, Notorious BIG, and of course, Tony Montana simultaneously shake their gangster heads. Their own enjoyment of the nutmeg infused brownies allows artist Jackie Crofts and colorist Josh Eckert to create their own homage to a conventional drug trip in a silent, double page spread that exposes the main characters’ subconscious thoughts and fears. But some of Wright’s most spot-on character work comes with Saffron, who has been the antagonist of the series up to this point as he pulls the rug under her Mean Girl archetype self to show that she’s insecure about being left behind her friend Marjorie, who may be attending a special art school as well as the fact that Bobby, the local grease monkey and Poppy and Cassia’s top brownie dealer isn’t interested in her
Jackie Crofts’ pencils and inks in Nutmeg #5 continue to be feather light, which makes the drug trip sequence so jarring as she bleeds out imagery and emotions onto the comics pages. Josh Eckert also covers the whole color spectrum from hot colors for Poppy’s soccer victories and fantasies of slaying a dragon as a gender bent St. George to the dark, melancholy purples as Cassia thinks about the girls at school who have made her life a living hell. Even though they are joined at the hip because of their brownie baking/criminal enterprise, both Poppy and Cassia have personal baggage to sort out. However, Wright doesn’t introduce any cheap, internal conflicts between them and follows up the trip with a touching sequence of panels as they embrace with Poppy holding Cassia’s head and her arms. But it’s not so simple as Poppy may have enjoyed the brownies a little too much.
Between the emotional (and possibly chemical) highs of Poppy, Cassia, and the brownies, Nutmeg #5 doesn’t neglect its supporting cast, which Wright plays for laughs and angst. The pages featuring the Nancy Drew (Without random boyfriends saving the day for her and carrying her school books.) meets Veronica Mars teen detectives Ginger and Anise are amusing genre parodies as the girls are serious about their detective work, but also know when things are getting too serious and when to simplify their inquiries or laugh things off. Ginger, Anise, and Senna Sage, who used to own the abandoned bakery where Poppy and Cassia make their brownies, are also shining examples of Crofts’ skill at drawing hair with a wide variety of styles that luxuriantly fall upon the page. Even though a hairstyle doesn’t have much to do with the main crime plot or even the detective subplot, it visually confirms that these are well-rounded characters even if their world is incredibly stylized. (Think Rob Thomas’ shows.)
Nutmeg #5 shakes things up as Poppy and Cassia sample the effect their brownie has on their fellow students and human beings firsthand, which brings out some dark feelings in Cassia and leads to the continued expansion of their criminal empire. Writer James Wright handles the main “rise of a criminal kingpin” plot while also continuing to flesh out the supporting cast as Marjorie becomes a likable figure in this issue as she tries to cheer up Saffron while also chasing her own dreams as an artist. Artist Jackie Crofts and colorist Josh Eckert turn in some of their most eye popping visuals making the brownies look mouth watering with a rich brown color and heavy line work to go with the sketchier figures. Plus there’s a bonus essay about how Wright was inspired by the hilarious Comedy Central Broad City to focus on female friendships in Nutmeg and an adorable Ilana and Abbi pinup from Josh Eckert that’s the icing on this tasty, layered brownie of this female fronted crime/detective comic set in picturesque Southern California.