Tuesday, August 25, 2009

The Charm of ‘Strangers’

When I first glanced at Strangers in Paradise, I thought Terry Moore’s comic books were somewhat derivative of Jaime Hernandez’s wonderful long-running Maggie and Hopey stories in Love & Rockets.

Now that I’ve spent more time with Moore’s Strangers in Paradise Pocket Book 1, I’ve concluded the series, featuring Katchoo and Francine, really is excellent in its own right. However, similarities remain apparent: two young women stumble through their challenges with life, love, their own sexual identities and each other. One of Moore’s protagonists even has issues with her weight, just like Maggie.

Also just as with Love & Rockets, Strangers in Paradise starts about one thing but drifts into other territory. The difference is it took awhile before L&R became less about rocket ships and more about romance. Strangers in Paradise’s back-and-forth story and tone transitions, however, from coping with disloyal men or a visiting drunken relative to fleeing the Mafia, are sometimes jarring.

And I have some nits to pick: The poetry/song lyrics can become repetitive in the collected edition (they were written in, I assume, as a thread to bind the individual comic books’ narrative). And while the drawing on the whole is detailed, atmospheric and beyond reproach, there was one point in the story where I thought that was Katchoo viciously attacking a down-at-heels private eye who’s been tailing her, only later to be told, no, that was some whole other angry, blond character …. (Gosh, it sure looks like Katchoo.)

But the tales of Katchoo and Francine have their own charm and deserve the Eisner and Reuben awards they’ve won. The characters’ confused, on-the-shirtsleeves emotions make them real and credible … even while the battling-the-bad-guys parts might not.

Leave the gun, take the cannoli.

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