Strangers in Paradise: Sanctuary

Hey! Why am I the only one here with no clothes on?

–Casey Femur

Sanctuary, the seventh Strangers in Paradise trade paperback, represents a series high point.

Title: Sanctuary (Issues #17-24 of the third series)

Author: Terry Moore.

ISBN: 1-892597-09-8

Buy from: or


In the story’s future, Francine and Katchoo reunite after ten years of separation. In its present, we see the hysterical—- in both non-literal senses—- adventures of the characters, as Katina enters paintings of Francine into an art exhibit.

High Points

Casey discovers the outsized nude painting of Francine in her house. Casey asks a bewildered Katchoo to turn her gay. Freddie’s Porsche experiences an unfortunate reversal of fortune. Francine demands her missing bikini and rules for “a bad trial thingy.” Bailey the cop shoots his superior in the toe…. The chronologically fractured fourth quarter of Santuary is as funny as anything in comix.

Low Points

In places the dialogue becomes clichéd, but usually in a real-world way. Moore understands when someone might actually say, “Francie, if only you could see through my eyes” and he comically undercuts, “I think I can hear my heart.” Some readers may still find them a bit hard to take. (They remain, however, far superior to George Lucas’s romantic dialogue)

The Scores

Originality: 4/6. I can think of no other storylines in comix centered on a painting and its meaning to various characters.

Artwork: 6/6. Moore does some great things with layout and lines. His silent panels can reveal character and advance plot at least as well as his dialogue-heavy ones.

Story: 5/6

Characterization: 5/6. I’m repeating past reviews, but these issues really show that, underneath the comic-book exaggerations and occasionally overwrought dialogue, Moore understands human psychology. Sanctuary also marks Casey’s development from running joke to full-fledged character. She remains entertaining and funny, but we see someone who chose the life she has—and hates it. The final quarter shows us Casey’s life for its own sake, but also because it reflects Francine’s story arc.

Freddie remains ont-to-two-dimensional, but he’s funny. Moore explores his personality later in the series.

Emotional response: 5/6. Sanctuary is, at turns, funny and touching. I think many people will recognize Francine, who cannot accept that she’s the beauty Katina has painted.

Flow 5/6. These issues move easily between present and future.

Overall: 6/6.

In total, Sanctuary 36/42.

Additional Comments

As always, Moore includes incidental satire and bizarre crossover moments. Pretentious art snobs, trend-following suburbanites, dirt-obsessed faux news programs, and mainstream radio stand among his casual targets. Blondie Bumstead takes art classes with Katchoo. Bill and Hillary Clinton appear in a dream sequence. Basil Fawlty shows up at the art opening, and Bailey the cop is a dead ringer for Don Knotts’ Barney Fife. Perhaps the most bizarre cameo belongs to R2-D2, who appears in the park.

The Timeshredder’s reviews may be found here.