Thoughts of the Graphic Sort

A place where I can discuss my addiction to graphic novels.

Posts Tagged ‘Mystery

Strangers in Paradise Vol. 1 by Terry Moore

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So, I came across this series through the comments on Amazon.com for some other graphic novel.  I can’t remember what the other one was, but it’s not important anyway.  Okay.  Moving on.

I had never heard about Strangers in Paradise until a few months ago.  It was described as a story about relationships and love between a group of friends with some mysteries, murders, intrigue, and nefarious organizations thrown in.  I was definitely interested, especially since it focused on two women who weren’t exploitations or stereotypes.

Volume 1 is a rapid-fire introduction to the characters and hints at some of the larger issues the series covers.  We meet Katchoo, a little fireball with a mysterious past who hates men, is in love with her best female friend, and confused about her feelings for David, her male best friend.  Then there’s Francine, the love of Katchoo’s life who is scared of men because they always turn out to be jerks, deals with weight issues, and is conflicted about her feelings for Katchoo — she loves her but she just can’t be with her, at least not in the way Katchoo wants.  And rounding out the trio is David, a man with a past as mysterious as Katchoo’s, who loves Katchoo but who also is involved with the people who are out to get her.

The series debuted in 1993 and although some things date the comic, like the clothes they wear, their hair, the lack of technology, Moore keeps pop culture references to a minimum which is great because it keeps the story from being pegged into any real time period.  As I read Volume 1, I sorely wished I had come across this comic when I was a teen growing up in the 1990s.    Back then, I had no idea comics like this even existed.  I assumed they were superheroes (which were for boys) or Archie-like comics (which were for girls).   Comics about women who fall in love, get angry, fall apart, and rely on each other to get back up?  Comics about two friends with real needs and issues?  Comics about love and friendship?  That would have blown my tiny teenage mind.  And my adult mind is going crazy wondering what’s going to happen to these friends next.

What I love about Strangers in Paradise is even when things go batshit crazy and people are pitted against each other, double and triple agents turn on their bosses, and someone does something foolish to protect someone else, it’s still about the relationship between Francine and Katchoo.  Will their friendship weather this storm and the next?  Will Francine ever love Katchoo the way Katchoo wants, or will Katchoo ever make peace with the fact that Francine will always only be a friend?  Will everyone just leave them alone so they can be happy?

I don’t know how the characters ends up – I’m only on Volume 4 – but I am super happy I found SiP in the Amazon.com comments.  Missing out on this gem and never getting to meet Katchoo, Francine, and David would have been a regret I didn’t even know I had, but it would have affected me nonetheless because I would never have known how great and compelling comics featuring characters with real emotions, needs, and desires could be.

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Written by JP Weezey

May 11, 2012 at 10:16 am

Salem Brownstone by John Hattis Dunning & Nikhil Singh

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Surprised doesn’t really describe how I felt when Salem Brownstone arrived in the mail.  Shocked and awed may be more apt.  The book is HUGE, and I don’t mean page length.  It’s a really big book.  At 12×9 inches, it pretty much dwarfs everything else on my shelves.

The cover is actually fabric with labels affixed to the front and back listing the title and so forth.  And the artwork inside is equally as impressive as the cover.  It reminds me of Edward Gorey, and since the story is a gothic fantasy, it’s an apt comparison.

Salem inherits his estranged father’s house and learns that his father was in the midst of a battle with otherwordly creatures from Midnight City over a scrying ball.  As the new owner, it is up to Salem to protect the ball and he achieves it with the help of his familiar and members of Dr. Kinoshita’s Circus of Unearthly Sights, which happens to be camped right next door.  Dr. Kinoshita’s Circus of Unearthly Sights is pretty much the coolest name for a circus I’ve ever heard.

Although marketed to middle-schoolers, I got a bit lost in the narrative at times but not enough that a few re-reads of certain pages didn’t help clear things up.  Once I literally had to say, “screw it,” and keep reading even though I didn’t understand the implications of what someone said because the story just keeps moving forward, whether you’re with it or not.  But it doesn’t matter if you re-read or move forward, just checking out the book is completely worth it with illustrations as grotesque and provocative as these:

The lush artwork creates a moody vibe that's perfect for this gothic tale of circus freaks and secret meetings under a full moon.

Dunning and Singh are completely in sync in Salem Brownstone. Singh’s visuals perfectly complement Dunning’s story and I hope to see more collaborations from them in the future.

Written by JP Weezey

March 21, 2012 at 8:00 am

Posted in Review

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