Strangers in Paradise: I Dream of You

As the series heads into its final year, I continue my review of the entire run of Terry Moore’s landmark Strangers in Paradise. I Dream of You, second and lengthiest of the trade paperbacks, collects the first nine issues of the second series. It also features some sketches and thoughts from Moore, a foreword by Diana Schultz, and an afterword by Dave Sim.

Title: I Dream of You (Issues #1-9 of the second series)

Author: Terry Moore.

ISBN: 1-892597-01-2

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Katchoo has disappeared for two months. This portion of the story begins with her return to Houston from Toronto, where she was visiting a friend who is dying from AIDS-related complications. During her absence Francine has fallen into depression and is eating everything in sight, while David has arranged for an exhibit of Katchoo’s paintings.

When Katchoo and David’s mysterious pasts, only hinted at in the earlier issues, finally catch up with their current lives, the soap opera becomes a violent thriller.

The final third of this chapter introduces elements which will become important in future issues.High Points

Moore hits his artistic stride here. He may lack Alex Ross’s photographic perfection, but he creates a fully-realized world, very like the one we inhabit but brimming with comic-book details.

Moore combines text and images in simple but often effective ways that never occur to many comic artists. He also gives us dream sequences drawn in other styles: Disneyesque cute animal, kiddie comic strip. These give us a different perspective on the central characters, as well as comic-appropriate representations of their inner lives.

Low Points

Who edited this thing? There’s an it’s/its error on the back cover blurb. There’s an it’s/its error in an extended prose section. Ditto in Dave Sim’s afterword. How hard would it be to find an editor, for crying out loud, who knows the difference?

The Scores

Originality: 4/6 The series remains fairly original at this point, because its mix of genres (discussed in my previous review) have been originally handled, and here Moore expands into the worlds of noir and potboiler/thriller. We also see some of the conspiracy theory elements that Moore will develop further.

Artwork: 6/6. See “High Points.” I will also add the standard comment; it remains rare, and was rarer when these issues were published, to see a comic where the women have a diversity of body types.

Story: 4/6. The forays into various thriller-related genres make for fun, page-turning reading. Still, some of Darcy Parker’s machinations don’t quite make sense, even in light of future developments.

Characterization: 5/6. The characterization of the principals has only improved since the first issues. Katina, Francine, and David are as stylized as everything else in this comic, but they’re rooted in reality.

Darcy Parker doesn’t entirely work as a believable villain, even in SiP’s world. She’s a little too cartoony. Still, she provides the story with some interesting conflicts, and these will form an important part of the story long after her demise.

We also see more of likeable tough-guy detective Walsh, and meet a number of other characters, some of whom will become important parts of the saga. In addition to Parker, these issues mark the first appearances of Francine’s doting mother and her drunken Uncle Maury, dubious private eye Digman1, dippy Casey (first words: “Hi. Tee hee hee.”), Katchoo’s missing years partner Emmie, muscle-girl Tambi, and a number of Parker Girls associates.

Emotional response: 4/6

Flow 4/6.

Overall: 5/6 The late Will Eisner said that comic books allow for someone who is slightly inept as both a writer and as a fine artist to combine the two into “an eptitude—if that’s a word.” While I wouldn’t call Moore inept, Strangers in Paradise definitely proves greater than the sum of its parts. Flaws in I Dream of You seem less significant when read in context of the entire book.

In total, I Dream of You receives a score of 32/42.

Additional Comments: Continuity

This issue contains a notorious (to fans) continuity error, though it could not have been identified as such at the time. Katchoo claims that she and Francine have been best friends since seventh grade. The series will later definitively establish that the girls only met and became friends during their senior year of high school. Now, the pair often toss bizarre references into their banter. Later, for example, Katchoo makes a reference in their non-existent cat (she’s done so before), and we understand that this is deliberate. We know they don’t have a cat. Whereas the cat reference serves some kind of purpose, the reference to grade seven does not.

It’s a minor point but given SiP’s strong continuity it’s somewhat jarring. Much later in the series, Moore will introduce a brief flashback that attempts to reconcile the contradiction. It’s ingenious, but it seems pretty clear that Moore had not developed the back story at this early point.

1. Hmmm… Apparently, Digman is the police officer referred to as “Wayne” in the first series. It’s later established that he lost his job and became a P.I.

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