The eighteenth Strangers in Paradise, Love and Lies serves up strong artwork and some problematic developments, months before the series’ conclusion.
Title: Love & Lies (third series, #77-83)
Author: Terry Moore.
Both Tambi and Casey express a desire to have David’s child just as the cast learns that he has brain cancer and likely very little time left. Various characters deal with a soap opera’s worth of problems, including infidelity and an eating disorder.
In the story’s background, a serial killer continues to stalk Houston.
The final portion focuses on David Qin’s circumstances, but ends with an unexpected death.
Moore’s art includes more conspicuous stylizations. A raging Francine turns into her Peanuts-like rendition from Tropic of Desire; Katchoo and Francine become their teenaged selves while trying to reconcile their differences. I enjoyed these, but I’m often more impressed by his subtler use of images. The final six pages tell their story with very few words.
The pictures require no more than that.
1. SiP‘s silly cameos may be gratuitous but amusing, as is Dennis the Menace’s appearance as one of Casey’s relatives and R2D2’s reappearance as a park garbage can. Others become a definite punchline, as is the appearance of real-life fan Kevin Smith back in Heart in Hand. However, Smith’s second appearance here, as Silent Bob, intrudes on the story and the joke is too broad and inane to warrant the interruption.
2. I’m growing annoyed with Tambi, who has gone from hired thug to heroic American patriot who apparently regards the U.S. constitution as a goddamned piece of paper. It’s a logical development, but its treatment thus far lacks context and insight.
Originality: 2/6. Save for David’s impending death, these issues feature little that really seems original.
Artwork: 6/6. See “High Points.”
Story: 3/6. SiP always resembled a soap, but it charges ahead full angst with these issues. Then we have the matter of certain developments which occur months before the series concludes.
Some issues ago, the long-awaited ten-year separation began—or so readers thought. Katchoo and Francine established separate lives and began having separate adventures. Moore had a few options. He could continue with their separate storylines. He could continue with the events following their ten-year separation. Instead, he chose to reunite them, two years later. Clearly, the ten-year separation has not occurred yet.
Given the likelihood that David will soon die, reuniting the other two principals makes sense. However, Moore has depicted Katchoo and Francine dealing with their differences. He has shown Francine’s marriage already in the desperate straits depicted in the future, back in Love Me Tender and Sanctuary. She’s just discovered her husband has been having an affair. She has realized her error in turning away from Katchoo. Having Francine turn her back again on Katchoo and return to Brad seems overly repetitive at this point, and suggests the character really hasn’t grown as much as we’ve been shown.
Characterization: 5/6. This remains strong. Minor players such as Pia have been handled thoughtfully.
Emotional response: 4/6 This resembles too much SiP’s previous issues, and I think most readers have been anticipating bad news from David. However, Moore writes that part of the story effectively
In total, Love and Lies receives a score of 29/42.
This is the most recent Strangers in Paradise paperback. I will resume review(s) when the final installment(s) of the series appear(s).