The first twenty-four issues of Strangers in Paradise’s third series aren’t perfect, but if you wanted to make the fans’ case—- that this is a clever, highly entertaining graphic novel which, despite its comic-book exaggerations and silliness, has an understanding of personality rare in comix—- you’d offer something from those issues as evidence. Issues #25-38 contain many strong moments, but if you wanted to make the critics’ case—- that this is a whiney soap opera occasionally interrupted by an entirely unbelievable conspiracy theory—- you’d likely turn to these.
My Other Life , the eighth Strangers in Paradise trade paperback, collects the first half of this story arc.
Title: My Other Life (Issues #25-30 of the third series)
Author: Terry Moore.
Just as circumstances appear to be improving for Francine, Katchoo, and David, a plane crash jeopardizes the lives of some principal characters, and the criminal pasts of two return to haunt them.
1. Issue #25 shows Moore at his best. Two weeks after the events depicted in Sanctuary, the characters go to the beach. Nothing much happens, but it’s funny and touching.
2. The story of Patricia nicely illustrates the human dimension of the crash of Flight 495.
Six Five barely worked before. Here, the conspiracy starts to go into overdrive, and it will only get worse in the issues that follow. It barely seemed credible that a bunch of people who act like (and really should have been) mafiaesque criminal conspirators could be managing an Illuminati-level plot.
Veronica only makes the situation worse. She’s supposed to be a cartoony supervillain, Darcy Parker without restraints. The notion of someone who would arrange a plane crash in the hopes that it might kill two people, still functioning as she does defies belief, even in SiP’s world. It also undercuts the more intimate drama. It’s a great example of what the Turkey City Lexicon calls the “Squid on the Mantelpiece.” To quote, “it’s hard to properly dramatize, say, the domestic effects of Dad’s bank overdraft when a giant writhing kraken is levelling the city.”
Artwork: 4/6. Moore’s art here perfectly reflects the strengths and weaknesses of his storytelling. He still handles character well, fine moments of conversation and bizarre dream sequences. The drawings of the plane crash aren’t all that effective.
Story: 4/6 The story’s internal logic deteriorates in the second half.
Characterization: 5/6. Tambi asks of Katchoo, “Who is this starving artist David talks about?… Can this be the same woman who once ran the world’s most powerful empire from the wings?” The fact is, I don’t see how it can be, either. This won’t become a major problem, however, until the second half of this arc.
Other moments– the football game, for example, give us fascinating glimpses into the characters’ inner lives.
Emotional response: 4/6. These issues contain many fine moments.
Moore can be very funny, and the satire of contemporary news has potential. Unfortunately, he overdoes it, and it clashes awkwardly with the seriousness of the scene. I understand the point he is trying to make, but in terms of dramatic impact, it’s misplaced.
In total, My Other Life 29/42.
Moore handles continuity well, though an interesting false start becomes apparent in these issues. We’ve known for some time that Francine’s future husband will be named Brad. In Sanctuary, she meets an unseen man by that name. In My Other Life, she meets the definitive Brad Silver. Was this an error on his part, or a deliberate red herring?
Randy Jackson, who reviewed this earlier at Four Color Explosion and stopped reading with this story arc, has elsewhere summed up what I want to say:
I found Francine and Katchoo a hundred times more interesting. So all the intrigue, murder, explosions and double-dealing were just getting in the way of a good story, much like a Hollywood movie that’s pretty decent three quarters of the way through that suddenly descends into chase scenes and gunfights when the premise of the movie shouldn’t have taken it anywhere near chase scenes and gunfights.
The Timeshredder’s reviews may be found here.