Strangers in Paradise: Tomorrow Now

Oh Lord… Be with us tonight! Guide our feet, especially on the staircase, and don’t let our pasties fall off because it’s a $300.00 fine! Amen.
-Casey’s pre-show prayer.

The fifteenth Strangers in Paradise trade paperback picks up a year after Francine and Brad’s wedding– the last time the central characters were together.

Tomorrow Now (#77-82 of the third series)
Author: Terry Moore.
ISBN: 1-892597-27-6

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A year after Francine’s wedding, Katchoo presents a one-woman art show. Past events overshadow her success, when she learns that someone close to her is an undercover agent investigating the death of Lindsey/Olivia. Francine gets a tattoo, Casey becomes a Las Vegas showgirl, Marie Peters confronts her past as the Bettie Pagesque “Mary Midnight,” and a new, sinister character makes an appearance. The story also flashes back to Katina at 17, shortly after she ran away to L.A. We read a story she wrote, see her steal a steak from Kevin Spacey, and meet her ill-fated partner Emma.

Significantly, the back cover blurb refers to SIP as the story of three women living extraordinary lives. The previous trade paperback focused on David Qin. He reappears at the end of Tomorrow Now, but for the present Casey has replaced him in the novel’s central trio.

High Points

Katchoo takes an important personal call on her cell while the authorities confront her with enough evidence to potentially jail her for life. The scene features a humor drawn from the dialogue and the expressive illustrations. After some witty exchanges, the conversation ends with Katchoo irked and the investigators in disbelief. Then Detective Walsh—- who has just stressed the gravity of Katchoo’s situation– picks up on her phone conversation. FBI Agent Bryan, meanwhile, stares like an irritated spouse.

Walsh: You know Mary Midnight?

Bryan: Who’s Mary Midnight?

Walsh: It’s a guy thing.

Bryan: Oh… Smut.

Katchoo: Can I go to prison now?

Low Point

While Moore has written and drawn stronger issues, this one has no significant low point. I’ve chosen instead to pick an interesting and (surprise!) continuity-related nit.

Time moves more slowly in Strangers in Paradise than in real life, as it does in most comics. The series has been running since 1993; these issues appeared in 2005. In SiP’s world, however, only four or five years have passed. I have no problem with this convention, nor with anomalies created by topical references to events occuring during the year of publication. It irks me slightly, however, that Katchoo’s biography states she was born in 1976. Identifying the year was entirely unnecessary, and it problematizes several issues which indicate that the characters’ senior high school adventures occur at some indefinite point in the mid-1980s. Unrealistic conventions are a tricky thing. If a writer calls much attention to them (save in farce) they detract from the story. It’s sort of like the infamous plot of Superman #330, which tries to explain why people don’t recognize Clark Kent without his glasses. It doesn’t make the convention more believable; it just emphasizes that readers have been accepting an absurdity.

The Scores

Originality: 5/6. The plot developments themselves may not be terribly original, but Tomorrow Now features a good deal of experimentation. Freddie Femur stars in a cartoony segment which folds back into the main storyline, and in a “one-minute play” script that depicts events from the series’ early days. Moore also gives us satiric jabs at the manipulation of the War on Terror, prose narration, a segment in a charcoal style, a parade of showgirls, and examples of Katchoo’s art.

Artwork: 5/6. These issues demonstrate that Moore can handle more than one artistic style.

Story: 4/6 The story holds together, and the Vegas plotline shows promise. While the resolution of the legal complications makes sense, it represents the kind of forced conclusion to which Moore will return too often.

Characterization: 5/6. Characterization has always been a strong point of the series. Marie gets stretched—- though not to breaking—- with revelations of her past as Mary Midnight, pin-up girl. Freddie Femur backslides a bit, becoming more of the joke character he’d been in earlier issues. Casey and Katchoo have been handled well in their respective segments.

Emotional response: 4/6

Flow 5/6 Moore manages to weave together the different plotlines more effectively than he did in Flower to Flame.

Overall: 4/6 Only four more trade paperbacks to go– and #16 only tenuously connects to the saga.

In total, Tomorrow Now receives a score of 32/42.