Strangers in Paradise XXV #1
Writer/Artist/Cover artist: Terry Moore
Publisher: Abstract Studio
Price: $3.99 US
Everything Terry Moore writes and draws is something I want to see, and in recent years, I’ve enjoyed seeing him branch out into other genres. With Echo, it was a novel and grounded take on a super-hero. Rachel Rising saw him delve into horror. And with Motor Girl, he examined… well, I honestly couldn’t tell you exactly under what genre that book fell (which is one of the things that was so captivating about it). Strangers in Paradise is the drama that served to bring Moore to the industry’s attention, the foundation on which he built his career in comics and his success in self-publishing. At first glance, the past incarnations of the property were part of a relationship drama, even an unconventional romance. But like Motor Girl, it defied easy definition. It was a slapstick comedy. An international thriller. A coming-of-age story. The depth of his characters — especially when it came to Katchoo and Francine — no doubt made revisiting this familiar corner of the world he’s built after so long a relatively simple task for a storyteller with the vision, nuance and sensitivity of Moore, but I was surprised he chose to return to this corner of the world he’s built over the years. However, yet another strong and riveting script from this masterful writer/artist now has me eager to learn what’s happened with these characters and what’s in store for them.
The political fallout from a literally explosive situation in Alaska means heads will roll in Washington, D.C., and one of those heads might just be a woman who was once one of the notorious Parker Girls — skilled operatives of a criminal mastermind with seemingly unending influence. That woman’s vulnerability means all the old Parker Girls are in danger, so Katchoo — currently enjoying the bliss of parenthood — and Tambi are forced to take matters into their own hands and ensure their survival.
I will never get over how incredibly well Moore renders the human form. His eye for anatomy is always impressive – especially when one considers he’s more into cartooning than life figure drawing. The cartoony side of his style comes through in exaggerated reactions, but it’s always that strong sense of realism that grabs the eye and never lets go. The convincing nature of his linework isn’t limited to the characters, but to the settings as well. That realistic strength is one of the things that allows him to succeed with black-and-white books in an industry dominated by colors; there’s so much in his lines that the audience doesn’t really miss the added tones. The cover imagery, of Katchoo walking through a world where everyone else is blinded, is powerful and poignant, though the full meaning has yet to reveal itself. It’s a striking image, but my one gripe with the cover is the masthead, as the “XXV” portion of the title almost disappears; it looks like it could be a mark on the subway car instead of part of the main logo.
Katchoo always makes for an entertaining read. Her smarts and her attitude are a combination that demands the audience’s attention. The reader can’t help but admire her strength and determination and humor, and we get all of that in this opening issue. I appreciated there’s no longer a darkness to the character; while she’s out to protect the life she’s built, there’s not an air of menace or instability to her, such as what we’ve seen glimpses of in the past. Her growth comes through here.
That being said, it’s Francine I’m really looking to reconnect with. She’s the Everywoman of the story, and it’s through her that the more extreme aspects of the drama are easily to believe and accept. Her reactions are what ours would be if we were there. When it comes to Francine, though, delayed gratification seems to be the order of the day. It’s Katchoo and her past in the spotlight here. It’s clear she’s happy, and if she’s happy, I can’t imagine Francine isn’t. But I want to see how she’s adjusted to a presumably quieter, happier life with Katchoo. Of course, I’m perfectly willing to wait to see that side of things. 8/10