Strangers in Paradise may not be as hot right now as Infinite Crisis or Civil War (which Fiz will be reviewing presently, and which I cautiously recommend), but Terry Moore’s series has much to recommend it. My review of the entire series, which ends next year, continues with Love Me Tender. The fourth trade paperback, it is an excellent example of what draws many readers to this series.

It also features a great superhero parody sequence by Jim Lee, with an apparent cameo by Bruce Wayne.

Title: Love Me Tender (Issues #1-5 of the third series)

Author: Terry Moore.
Superhero segment illustrated by Jim Lee.

ISBN: 1-892597-03-9

Buy from: Amazon.com or
Amazon.ca

These original issues were the first of eight released through Homage, formed by Moore, Jim Lee, Kurt Busiek, and James Robinson. The Homage issues were in colour, though the trade paperback only colorizes the Jim Lee segment. Moore returned to his own imprint with #9 of the third series.

It’s a Good Life!, the third anthology, collected issues 10-13 of the second series, but that series actually ran fourteen issues. Issue #14 featured the experimental story of Molly and Poo, which only tenuously connected to Strangers in Paradise. Much later, this issue was collected with two other Molly and Poo-related issues. Molly and Poo makes for fascinating reader and will be reviewed later. Save for one short segment, however, it doesn’t really form a part of the Strangers in Paradise graphic novel.

Premise:

We meet an older, heavier, and sadder Francine, a married woman with a five-year-old daughter. While awaiting her husband in a restaurant, she sees Katchoo for the first time in a decade.

The story then flashes back to the familiar characters and setting, years earlier, shortly after their move to the flat owned by Margie McCoy. Francine gets a new job, and the relationship among the three principals grows increasingly complicated.

Although I would argue that SiP can be read as a loose graphic novel, this trade paperback clearly tells the first half of a specific story arc or “chapter.”

High Points

This inventive issue presents us with many things to like; the opening has quite an impact. It begins with a very funny dream-sequence which parodies mainstream superhero comix, and introduces color to Strangers in Paradise. Moore barely lets the reader adjust to this odd treatment of his characters when we meet the future Francine. The story then flashes back to some very funny moments with Francine, Katchoo, and David as we’ve come to know them. As a bonus, the running gag of prurient neighbors (a nod to the fact that the characters’ lives are on display—-in a comic book)– receives a particularly funny twist.

Low Points

This story illustrates the risks faced by writers who publish their work serially, although the problem created in Love Me Tender could not be recognized until much later. I wanted to address it, and this seemed like a good place, since this issue has few real “low points.” Flashing forward ten years provides an excellent structural device. It will become an important part of the series, and help give shape to SiP. Of course, flashing forward creates the potential for continuity problems, and Moore’s decision to include a cameo by Casey does just that.

Francine had to meet someone from her past besides Katchoo, and Moore selected Casey who, at the time, was a minor character whom he’d been playing for comic effect. As the series progressed, Moore and his readership grew to like Casey, and he made her an integral part of the story. While it is entirely plausible that the domestic Francine would have lost contact with Casey over the years, the conversation they have won’t really make sense, given the events he will depict later.

(This may seem unfair, but, as I said, this issue has few weak moments).

The Scores

Originality: 5/6 While nothing terribly original happens in this part of the story, the treatment of events is imaginative and innovative.

Artwork: 6/6. The varying angles, the play between pictures and words, the use of wordless panels, and the attention to detail have all made him a favorite among comic readers and artists. This comic bears rereading in no small part because of Moore’s artwork.

Story: 5/6 The plot is loose and not completed, but it engages the reader. This is half of a chapter, and concerns the characters’ relationships. The second half, which appears in Immortal Enemies, focuses on the thriller aspects of SiP. The link between the two is Rachel, Chuck’s enigmatic girlfriend and Francine’s new colleague.

With both artwork and story, Moore continues to juggle realism, parody, satire, and comic-book silliness.

Characterization: 5/6. I can’t add much to what I’ve written in past reviews. If anything, Moore’s depiction of characters has improved.

Emotional response: 5/6.

Flow 6/6 Moore handles the movement between disparate scenes well, and juxtaposes scenes in surprising and inventive ways. Love Me Tender— future continuity errors aside— connects in various ways to past issues.

Bonus: Pat, the loser lothario who last appeared as a video clerk, now has a job as a valet. His way with women hasn’t improved at all.

Overall: 5/6. This features some of SiP’s shining moments.

In total, Love Me Tender receives a score of 37/42.

The Timeshredder’s reviews may be found here.