In the thirteenth Strangers in Paradise trade paperback, the principal characters’ lives take them in different directions.
Title: Flower to Flame (#55-60 of the third series)
Author: Terry Moore.
Francine and Katchoo separate, presumably for the next ten years. Katina and Casey become friends with benefits and move in together. This part of the story ends with Francine and Brad’s wedding, shortly after Francine miscarries.
The story’s not so strong in these issues, but Moore handles certain emotional moments effectively:
Francine’s reaction to the miscarriage is entirely believable, and Moore makes effective use of artwork by showing a wordless page of a lifetime that we now know won’t ever happen.
Katchoo’s reaction to her abusive step-father’s death would have been better with less narration. The use of the teenaged Katina’s poem from High School! had impact enough, combined with the image of her defacing the grave.
The Disneyesque dream sequence in #57 may be memorable for its absurd humor (and numerous cameos, including Spider-man), but it captures, in an appropriately surreal way, Katina’s emotional state. Dream-Francine and seven motley dwarves act out a slapstick parody of a fairy tale which dramatizes Katchoo’s hopes and fears. In a more serious portion of the dream, she watches her long-time best friend grow old without her.
So much space has been devoted to the Lindsey plot and it ends, abruptly, with the principals completely unaware of what has happened.
Originality: 4/6. Moore has forced himself to take the series in some new directions. At this point he’s concluding the last part of the story, and he does little with the changes.
Artwork: 5/6 The artwork remains strong and inventive.
Story: 4/6 Granted, Katchoo and Francine have now gone separate ways, and we might expect fragmentation. However, this story lacks focus in places. Casey’s actions help unify the plots; Tambi’s involvement in the Lindsey plot brings it to a needlessly abrupt ending.
Characterization: 5/6. Some of the minor characters introduced here are too weakly drawn: Leo is a bad joke, and the priest a cranky stereotype. Moore can do (and has done) better.
The major characters, however, continue to be presented with a skill rarely found in comix. Moore manages to get at the essence of Casey, at one point, by having her sing off-key into a carrot.
Emotional response: 4/6 Flower to Flame features some very strong emotional high points whicih separate a lot of filler. Indeed, Moore pads these issues with things like writer’s notes, fake interviews, and such.
Flow 4/6 SiP manages coherence, even in its current fragmented form.
In total, Flower to Flame receives a score of 30/42.