November 8, 2008

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Quick Hits: Strangers in Paradise Volumes 1-5

Volume 1
Written by Terry Moore
Illustrated by Terry Moore
Abstract Studios

Figured I'd go back and flip through these before catching back up on the storyline. This is the first, and looking back, rather rough introduction to our three main characters and their quirks.

An odd set of star-crossed lovers cross paths in this ongoing story. Katchoo, a woman with a dark past, loves Francine, who seems to always love the wrong guy, particularly a low-life, lust-crazed Freddie. Enter David, who can't take his eyes of Katchoo. When Katchoo decides to take matters with Freddie a bit too far, they all end up on a path that seems to quiet down but is only getting started.

This trade is a bit looser in style than what follows, which tends down a darker road that, in my opinion makes for a better story. Strangers is a relationship comic with extreme elements and a dark underbelly. If that appeals to you, hop on board here and enjoy the ride. Recommended, though some may find the recurring themes a bit too recurring as the series progresses
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Volume 2
Written by Terry Moore
Illustrated by Terry Moore
Abstract Studios

The second collection of Strangers gets very dark very quickly, as the winding of complex plots involving Katchoo and David begin here. Katchoo is more than an almost comically over-aggressive friend and potential lover--she has quite a bit of skeletons in her closet. Despite her best efforts, Katchoo's love for Francine may just cause more trouble than it solves.

I admit the severely darker turn threw me when I first read this, but I think this is a solid series that is definitely worth a look for those searching for a non-funny funny book.


Volume 3
Written by Terry Moore
Illustrated by Terry Moore
Abstract Studios

I think this trade reads better when you don't know what comes after, so had I actually done the review at the time I read the storyline, I think I would have liked it better than I do now looking back.

This arc, once you know what's coming around the corner, has the feel of a placeholder while the writer gets ready to tell the story he's wanted to give you for a few issues now. Our three protagonists trip over each other in their strange love triangle and we learn a bit more about Katchoo's past. I think it would have worked better as a fill-in issue rather than a whole arc.

Moore does put some nice comic moments in this one, but there's a point at which you can only see the same "Frankie's a jerk" plot so many times. Better things are coming with the next trade, and really this trade can probably be skipped by those who don't feel the need to be completists. As a completist, however, I of course suggest you read it and enjoy the fun parts, because they're about to become scarse.


Volume 4
Written by Terry Moore
Illustrated by Terry Moore and Jim Lee
Abstract Studios

Around this time is where Moore seems ready to really put his characters through the wringer, using some of the little points he's teased in here and there to show that, well, these three people are really fucked up. At the time I first read--and raved about--this series, I was not in the best place myself. I think I could relate to the angst Katchoo, David, and Francine were feeling. Now, happily engaged, I look on this one and can't figure out for the life of me why these people want to be with each other! Katchoo passive-agressives David and Francine, David is too distant--why does Katchoo want him around, anyway?, and Francine just walks face-first into everything.

While Katchoo and David alternate between loving and hating each other, Francine gets a new job, and a lot of self issues. We're just about to have the dam that is Katchoo and David's secret lives burst all over the stage. I assure you it won't be pretty.


Special note on the hysterical Jim Lee dream sequence on this one. He tweaks himself in the process, and it's just fun for those of us that lived in the heyday of Image comics.

Written by Terry Moore
Illustrated by Terry Moore
Abstract Studios

This wraps up a lot of the storylines that had been, frankly, dragging on a bit too long. Katchoo gets herself right back into the mess she tried to leave, David shows he's a true friend, and Francine won't rest until she gets the real answers to Katchoo's life, once and for all.

I like how Moore gets the plots resolved here but I aslo know that at the time I read it, I was hoping that some of them would be put to bed once and for all. Katchoo's past life will probably always haunt her, but if the pattern is alternating between silly relationships and killer prostitution rings all the time, there's just not much to keep going. It's rathe like late 1970s Spider-Man--you can only read the Spidey cleared, no wait, he's wanted by the law again plots before they become tiresome, no matter how much you like the character.

I'll be picking up reading this series from this point, so we'll see what I think. In the meantime, I can definitely recommend reading the first five trades to anyone looking for a new series to try.