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By | Wednesday, June 5, 2013 | 6:32 pm | 6 Comments | Blog > Features

I really don’t have a whole lot to say this month to kick off the new edition of Lee’s Pull List. I know, I know – I’m shocked, too. It’s my birthday in a couple weeks so I’m hoping for some new trades. And that’s really all I can think about. That and Star Trek, but that’s neither here nor there. So, yeah…Disclaimer Time!! All titles are paperback unless otherwise noted and the suggested retail price is just that: suggested. All of the dates are approximate and subject to change so you should always check with your local comic shop before planning your purchase.

Without further ado, (I got it right on the first try this time, Gorby!), and absolutely no fanfare we begin!

 

MARVEL

 

wolverine first cuts

 

WOLVERINE: FIRST CUTS

There are 11 different Wolverine books scheduled to come out this month. Which means almost half of what Marvel is putting out into the world of trade paperbacks feature the adamantium clawed, cigar chomping, beer swilling, indestructible mutant, Logan. That’s even more then what they put out two months ago when billionaire playboy Tony Stark made his return to celluloid exploits. It feels a little bit like overkill to me, but what do I know? Anywho, I picked this book out of the throng for literally no other reason then it was the first one I saw and it directly ties in to the new movie. It’s a collection of stories that tell Logan’s origins with the Weapon X project, shed some light on his Japanese love interest and her evil father, (why can’t they just have a well adjusted home for once?), and features members of S.H.I.E.L.D. and the Amazing Spider-Man, who, I’m assuming, won’t be in the new movie. Most of the hardcores will all ready have this, but if you’re one of the five people who don’t know anything about Wolverine then I guess go buy this book!

SRP: 19.99
Contains: X-Men Origins: Wolverine #1, Uncanny X-Men (1st series) #118-119, Wolverine (1st series) #1-2, #83-85
Amazon, Indigo: June 25, 2013
TFAW, MCS: June 12, 2013

 

hulk from the uk vaults

 

HULK: FROM THE MARVEL UK VAULTS

Ok, Marvel redeems its shame less capitalizing with this book. Apparently most of these stories have never been seen by American eyes before. They’re from 1979, and, I would assume, onward and they’re taken from the weekly Hulk Comic that was created around the time the live action series was gaining popularity. There’s some big names involved, including Dave Gibbons and Steve Dillon, and it should be interesting to see what a British take on the Hulk is like.

SRP: 34.99
Contains: Unsure, but at least 296 pages of Hulk and Crumpets awesomeness
Amazon, Indigo: July 9, 2013
TFAW, MCS: June 26, 2013

 

castle calm before the storm

 

CASTLE: CALM BEFORE THE STORM (HC)

When I first saw a Castle comic book I kind of chuckled, showed a friend who also thought it was funny and then moved on. But these things keep popping up. Based on the TV series starring Nathan Fillion, (the only reason to watch it), these are stories written by the fictional Richard Castle that would be talked about in the show. I’m assuming part of his Derrick Storm series. It’s kind of meta, but kind of cool, too. And apparently it’s popular because they keep putting them out.

SRP: 19.99
Contains: Castle: A Calm Before The Storm #1-5
Amazon, Indigo: July 9, 2013
TFAW, MCS: June 26, 2013

 

deadpool killustrated

 

DEADPOOL: KILLUSTRATED

This, very clearly, is not going to be canon as far as the continuing saga of Deadpool is concerned. If you have to read everything the Merc with the Mouth is in, though you’re going to get this regardless. As for what the book is about…well, try this on for size. Killing the marvel universe wasn’t enough because Deadpool is gunning for major literary characters now. Tom Sawyer, Little Women, Scrooge, Gulliver, Sherlock Holmes and more are sliced, diced, shot, stabbed and maimed all for our sick pleasure. Like I said, I don’t think this is canon by any means, but it could be fun and we all need a little fun sometimes.

SRP: 14.99
Contains: Deadpool Killustrated #1-4
Amazon, Indigo: June 25, 2013
TFAW, MCS: June 12, 2013

 

DC

 

preacher book 1

 

Preacher Book 1

Speaking of Steve Dillon…I love these books. Maybe the end of the series gets a little muddled and some of the one-offs and last third of the series kind of feels like it’s padding out what I’m sure was a lucrative run, but for sheer, balls-to-the-wall creativity and jaw-dropping fun this series is the go to destination. Anyone who owns volumes 1 through 9 probably don’t need to bother, but anyone who doesn’t should take note as each book contains roughly two volumes at a discounted price. There’s really not a whole lot that needs to be said about this other then: go and get it! Seriously! It’s fantastic!

SRP: 19.99 (crazy considering each volume was released at roughly this price point)
Contains: Preacher #1-12
Amazon, Indigo: June 18 (my birthday! how appropriate!)
TFAW, MCS: June 12

 

harley quinn night and day

 

Harley Quinn: Night And Day

At first I thought this was new Harley Quinn stuff, like New 52 new, (sheesh!), but it is not. This is the second volume of Harley’s solo adventures to be collected in trade format. The first volume was released…six years ago?! What the what?! How is there not more Harley love going around? And why did it take six years to continue collecting these issues? It’s written by Karl Kesel, too, so I’m sure it’ll be entertaining. This contains two arcs, one where Harley decides to go good, (long before her Gotham City Siren days), and the other has her battling Croc. I don’t know, I’m intrigued.

SRP: 16.99
Contains: Harley Quinn #8-13, Harley Quinn: Our Worlds At War #1
Amazon, Indigo: June 11
TFAW, MCS: June 5

 

batman and robin vol. 2

 

Batman And Robin Vol. 2: Pearl (HC)

New 52 Batman and Robin adventures, featuring Damien Wayne as Robin. I don’t need to say much about Batman and Robin. You either like it or you don’t. I do. I mentioned last month how I liked the idea of releasing two volumes simultaneously and I stand by that. Vol. 1: Born To Kill hits stands the same day in paperback format. DC is also releasing two volumes of Stormwatch and two volumes of new Superman shenanigans. Dig it.

SRP: 24.99
Contains: Batman And Robin (2nd series) #9-14, 0
Amazon, Indigo: June 11
TFAW, MCS: June 5

 

sweet tooth vol. 6

SWEET TOOTH VOL. 6: WILD GAME

For some reason I thought Sweet Tooth was done after Vol. 5. I’m glad I was wrong. I’ve only read the first Volume, but I quite enjoyed it. On paper it sounds kind of ho-hum: post-apocalyptic world, boy who kind of looks like a deer so I started thinking like Road Warrior meets A Boy And His Dog, but it’s really much better then that. Anyone who’s familiar with Jeff Lemire probably all ready knows about Sweet Tooth and his, well, sweet tooth. Anyone who isn’t should start at Vol. 1 or read his fantastic Essex County series. The guys really good at getting genuine emotion, humor and a decent helping of action and making all of it feel totally right.

SRP: 16.99
Contains: Sweet Tooth #33-40
Amazon, Indigo: June 25
TFAW, MCS: June 19 (the day after my birthday! how appro-ok, i’ll stop)

 

INDIES

 

WalkingDead_Vol18_WhatComesAfter

 

THE WALKING DEAD VOL. 18: WHAT COMES AFTER

Oh Negan, what have you gotten yourself in to…? For those of us who wait for the trades we’ll finally get to see what Rick and Jesus have planned for the baseball bat wielding, soliloquy spouting tough guy. I really don’t have a whole lot to say about this other then I LOVE IT! Hands down one of my favorite ongoing series of all time.

Publisher: Image
SRP: 14.99
Contains: The Walking Dead #103-108
Amazon, Indigo: June 7
TFAW, MCS: June 5

 

womanthology space
WOMANTHOLOGY: SPACE (HC)

I was going to write about this last month, but it was slightly delayed. This is a collection of sketches, stories, poems, anecdotes and pretty much everything in between and around the comics medium all written by women. That might not sound like a big deal but in the boys club that is the comic book world it’s kind of cool to see a female perspective. The first volume of this series revolved around the word Heroic and, like this volume, profits from the book go to charity. This is sweet. Get on it.

Publisher: IDW
SRP: 24.99
Contains: 128 pages of estrogen laced Space
Amazon, Indigo: June 7
TFAW, MCS: June 5

 

LoneWolf2100Omnibus

 

LONE WOLF 2100 OMNIBUS

I have to assume that this is based on the Japanese movie series and manga, Lone Wolf And Cub. Anyone familiar with LW&C will know the basic story all ready: travelling samurai has a child with him to he must keep safe while killing people and defending his honor. The 2100 version has the samurai played by an android and the cub, Daisy Ogami, is somehow the salvation of a dying future. Lone Wolf must keep her safe from powerful people who want all for their own. It doesn’t sound terribly original but the Japanese movies were quite entertaining for their time and I’m hoping the new adaptation is as well. Dark Horse is also releasing the original Lone Wolf and Cub in Omnibus editions this month as well for those of us who like to see where something started.

Publisher: Dark Horse
SRP: 24.99
Contains: Lone Wolf 2100 #1-11, Lone Wolf 2100: Red Files #1
Amazon, Indigo: June 11
TFAW, MCS: June 12

 

adventure time vol. 3

ADVENTURE TIME VOL. 3

I don’t know. I don’t get it. But this is very popular, so here it is. I read that it was one of the biggest hits in the comic book industry for 2012 and one of the most successful “all-ages” comic books ever. Wow. I watched some of the show and I didn’t get why it was so popular. I doubt
I’ll read the book even though they’re super popular. I just don’t get it. And pickings were slim this month without double dipping into another companies releases and I decided not to do that.

Publisher: Kaboom Comics
SRP: 14.99
Contains: Can’t get exact info, but I did find out it’s two arcs totaling 112 pages
Amazon, Indigo: July 2
TFAW, MCS: June 26

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By | Monday, May 20, 2013 | 4:06 pm | 1 Comment | Blog > Features

 

 

Last time on Continuity Nerds, we took a timely look into the chronology of Star Trek in commemoration of JJ Abrams’ latest entry into the series’ increasingly forked timeline. Now, in light of Disney’s much ballyhooed acquisition of Star Wars, as well as today’s announcement of the upcoming Star Wars: Rebels television series, let us take a moment to honor those who have devoted such painstaking efforts to codifying the history of a universe inexplicably set in the distant past despite its status as a science fiction mainstay: that of George Lucas’s Star Wars, and particularly its surrounding Expanded Universe.

For many years, Nathan P. Butler’s Star Wars Timeline Gold has been the authority on chronology within the Star Wars Galaxy. While the movies we all know and love or tolerate only cover a span of about twenty years, the rich collaborative history lent to it by novels, video games, and, yes, comics books (hopefully the TRO editorial board will have more on that soon) have taken the scope far beyond that: from the Old Republic Era of five thousand years before the battle of Yavin as depicted in the original film (which you may be familiar with from BioWare’s Old Republic video game series) to Dark Horse’s Legacy comics set over a hundred years after the Rebels [spoiler!] defeat the evil galactic empire in Return of the Jedi, and everything in between.

If you look hard enough, the timeline even features some interesting theories on how “long ago” the events of that galaxy far, far away actually are. (Hint: Star Wars‘ sister franchise Indiana Jones is involved.)

Would you believe that this singular project has cultivated its own devoted community? SWTG features a podcast, reviews, and even its own radio station. And with Disney expanding the franchise to fill the gap between the prequel and original trilogies, and extend it even further beyond, this mainstay of sci-fi nerddom will have its hands full for quite a while. May the obsessive compulsive data sorting be with you!

 

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By | Saturday, May 11, 2013 | 6:29 pm | 32 Comments | Blog > Features

I can’t believe it’s been a month, my fellow readers! Last month massive flooding hit my town, the worst we’ve seen in over 100 years I’m told, and as roads were shut down and people evacuated I couldn’t help but think, “I can’t wait to get the time to get back online and check up with my favorite four color medium.” And when everyone was safe and everything was clean that’s exactly what I did.

It also made me very happy to see that I’ve gotten some positive response to this little column, or article, or what-have-you that I do and I want to thank everyone who reads, everyone who comments and everyone involved with the site for giving me the opportunity to do this. All right, enough of that mush! Say it with me: “Disclaimer Time”!! All titles are paperback unless otherwise noted and the suggested retail price is just that: suggested. All of the dates are approximate and subject to change so you should always check with your local comic shop before planning your purchase.

Without further ado and absolutely no fanfare we begin!

 

MARVEL

 

wolverine the best there is

WOLVERINE: THE BEST THERE IS – THE COMPLETE SERIES

OK, this sounds interesting. A crazy virologist wants to try and kill the unkillable Logan by eliminating his healing ability and taking him out. He uses vampires and demigods (WTF?) to try and push Logan to his limits and find out what he’s capable of. I like the idea of a guy who’s all about viruses trying to come up with one that will over ride Logan’s healing ability. Of course the X-Men help him get revenge and apparently some space pirates as well (again WTF?). If you can get past some of those oddities this might be a wild and original ride for fans of the Wolverine!

SRP: 29.99
Contains: Wolverine The Best There Is #1-12
Indigo, Amazon: May 14
TFAW, MCS: May 1

 

Cable_and_X-Force_Vol_1

Cable And X-Force Vol. 1: Wanted

The Wild Man of Borneo is back! And he’s not off to the greatest start with his new X-Force. He gets branded a terrorist and has to fight his foster daughter, Hope. And they have to track down Colossus and figure out why his powers are on the fritz. Sounds like a crappy job, but if anyone can handle all of that and come out looking awesome it’s Cable! Sounds like a few one-off stories collected together to give you a taste of what’s to come from this new X-Force. Oh, there’s also something about them handling the jobs no one can know about, whatever that nonsense means.

SRP: 17.99
Contains: Cable And X-Force #1-5 and material from Marvel Now Point One #1
Indigo, Amazon: May 14
TFAW, MCS: May 1

 

avengers complete by geoff johns

The Avengers: Complete Collection by Geoff Johns

Do you like Geoff Johns? Do you like the Avengers? Well, have I got the book for you! Mr. DC cheats on his first love and gives us his take on Marvel’s flagship franchise with 3 different stories featuring Earth’s mightiest heroes. First – Thor takes the throne in Asgard and Iron Man tries to keep the Thunder God in line; second – every capital city on Earth vanishes and the remaining mortals look to the Avengers for guidance, and last but not least – Vision loses his memories and seeks help from his creator to reclaim them. Good stuff. Should be fun.

SRP: 29.99
Contains: Avengers (3rd series) #57-63, Vision #1-4, Thor (2nd series) #58 and Iron Man (3rd series) #63
Indigo, Amazon: June 11
TFAW, MCS: May 29

 

Superior_Spider-Man_Vol_1

Superior Spider-Man Vol. 1
OK, so I was going to mention this book just so I could write something along the lines of ‘first he was amazing, then he was spectacular, but now he’s superior’, but then I read the plot and my jaw hit the floor. Apparently Spider-Man has been taken over by Dr. Octopus?! I swore I wouldn’t do this again this month, but, I have to give a firm and resounding ‘WTF?’ for this one! I’ll admit I’m not very up to date on my Marvel Universe and maybe I’m missing something, but how is this a good idea? It’s frackin’ nuts! Oh well, maybe somebody’s into it – issue 12 hits the news stand soon.

SRP: 17.99
Contains: Superior Spider-Man #1-5
Indigo, Amazon: June 11
TFAW, MCS: May 29

 

DC

superman and the men of steel

Superman – Action Comics: Superman and The Men of Steel

DC’s been doing something kind of cool lately: the aforementioned book is making its paperback debut this month and, for those of us who don’t like to wait, Vol. 2 is making its hardcover debut in the same month. Not a bad idea, especially if you don’t care about keeping your collection uniform and you just want the story. They’re also doing this with two volumes of Aquaman. Written by Grant Morrison and featuring art by Rags Morales and Andy Kubert the book pretty much sells itself, but if you need added incentive, the book has something to do with the people of Earth turning against Superman, which I swear has happened before, but probably wasn’t written as well and it’s all been given the new 52 sheen.

SRP: 16.99
Contains: Action Comics #1-8
Indigo, Amazon: May 7
TFAW, MCS: May 1

 

new teen titans omnibus vol. 3
New Teen Titans Omnibus Vol. 3 (HC)

Collecting the rest of the 1st series of New Teen Titans and the beginning of the 2nd series of New Teen Titans this omnibus will surely please fans of the world’s most famous team of sidekicks. The last omnibus included the best arcs the Titans ever had (Terra Incognito and New Judas Contract respectively), so this omnibus just won’t be able to live up to that amazingness. But, it’s still one of the best ways to get full color reprints of classic Titan action. And with over sized pages it’s also easier on the eyes, making sure you can stay up late in to the night devouring all the angsty fun.

SRP: 75.00 (can be found cheaper)
Contains: NTT (1st series) #38, 45-61, 66-67; NTT (2nd series) #1-6; Secret Origins Annual (2nd series) #3
Indigo, Amazon: June 4
TFAW, MCS: May 29

 

top ten absolute edition

Top 10 – Absolute Edition (HC)

For anyone who’s unfamiliar with Alan Moore’s Eisner Award-winning Top 10 this is the first and only place you need to look. Including Vol. 1 and 2, plus the Forty-Niners original graphic novel and the Smax spin-off it is definitely the Absolute Edition. Precinct 10 is a city full of super powered humans and the men and women of Top 10 are the police force that keep order…or at least try to. This is a joint release between DC and America’s Best Comics and a better use of DC’s resources then re-releasing Watchmen for the hundreth time (seriously, deluxe hardcover edition this month, but who needs it?). It does cost a lot of money, but hopefully it will at least drum up interest in an under read book.

SRP: 99.99
Contains: Top Ten #1-12, Top Ten: Forty-Niners OGN, Smax #1-5
Indigo, Amazon: June 4
TFAW, MCS: May 29

 

legion of super-heroes the dominators

Legion Of Super-Heroes: The Dominators

Anyone familiar with the Legion knows that the Dominators usually mean business. And anyone who’s unfamiliar, well, just look at the name. I like the Legion; they’re usually solid, sometimes a little ridiculous, (but, really, what comic book isn’t?) and always entertaining. There’s really not much to say. Fans will enjoy it. Anyone who’s curious might want to start with Volume 1 of their New 52 adventures or check out some Supergirl and The Legion books. Good stuff.

SRP: 16.99
Contains: Legion of Super-Heroes #8-14, #0
Indigo, Amazon: May 14
TFAW, MCS: May 8

 

Indies

 

spawn origins vol. 18

Spawn Origins Vol. 18
I don’t know how this can be called ‘Origins’ when you hit Vol. 18, but, I guess it’s more enticing then ‘Spawn Re-Prints’ which is essentially what this is. I can’t find what happens in the 5 or 6 issues printed here, but I was able to find some hype that lets me know these volumes have exclusive bonus content, including black and white art, cover gallery and…classic quotes? I don’t know if the last one is necessary, but Spawn as a character is pretty sweet and these collections are fairly wallet friendly so that’s all good stuff. Side note: these are also released in hardcover editions with two trades in one hardcover at about twice the price.

Publisher: Image
SRP: 14.99
Contains: Spawn #105-110
Indigo, Amazon: May 28
TFAW, MCS: May 15

 

The-Rocketeer-Adventures-Treasury-Edition

Rocketeer Adventures: Treasury Edition

This is a collection of…wait for it…Rocketeer Adventures (who’da thunk?). Written and drawn by various people, including Mark Waid and Darwyn Cooke, this is sort of a “best of” from the IDW vaults and includes Dave Stevens’, the creator, first Rocketeer story in 20 years. If you bought volume 1 or 2 of IDW’s take on the Rocketeer you might want to pass on this as it reprints material from those books, but, if you’re curious to see what the character’s like in print this is a good starting point. And then watch the old movie again because it’s actually pretty cool.

Publisher: IDW
SRP: 9.99
Contains: Various stories from IDW’s Rocketeer books
Indigo, Amazon: can’t find a listing for this on either site…odd….
TFAW, MCS: May 8

 

prophecy
Prophecy

I’ll admit I only added this one because there wasn’t much exciting me this month in the indie trades, but upon further research this actually sounds kind of intriguing. It’s one of those big cross over books where the publisher takes a whole whack of their characters and forces them to come together to stop some evil. In this case the evil is the Mayan Doomsday Prophecy. OK, I’m not sure how that’ll play out exactly, but with Red Sonja, Dracula and Vampirella, Pantha and Athena, Dr. Herbert West, Ash, Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson and even Alan Quatermain trying to figure it out I’m sure it’ll all end for the best.

Publisher: Dynamite
SRP: 19.99
Contains: #1-7
Indigo, Amazon: May 21
TFAW, MCS: May 8

 

freaks amour
Freaks’ Amour

Much like Prophecy, I’m not sure what this is, but it sounds really weird and I like weird so what the heck? Apparently this is a comic book sequel to a cult favorite novel written by Tom DeHaven. There’s been a nuclear explosion and the survivor’s are trying to raise money for surgery…I would assume to fix physical ailments. Again, I’m not familiar with this story, but it’s got grotesque sex shows and, this is what caught my eye, ‘drug-mutant goldfish eggs’. Not sure how any of that will lead to raising money, but, I’m definitely intrigued.

Publisher: Dark Horse
SRP: 17.99
Contains: Freaks Amour #1-3 and a prose sequel by DeHaven
Indigo, Amazon: May 21
TFAW, MCS: May 15

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By | Tuesday, April 9, 2013 | 3:26 am | 3 Comments | Blog > Features

Would you, dear readers, consider yourselves a highly methodical and meticulous people? Particularly, in the pursuit of absorbing niche areas of culture often deemed by the public eye as the purview of “nerds”? Wait, why am I even asking? That’s the entire dang point of this website.

Fortunately, the best thing about the Internet is that whenever we’re feeling like total weirdos, there’s about a million websites out there for people who think just like us to aid in our unlikely hobbies. We at TRO exist to help you sort out comic book continuity by way of trade paperback collection, but if you’re like me, you’d like to bring the same level of organization to all nerdly endeavors.

Fortunately, the Internet can once again accommodate: and in our new “Continuity Nerds” feature, we will highlight the places and projects which do just that.

We begin with that old grand dame of American science fiction television, Star Trek. As we are now well into the Hollywood hype cycle for Star Trek into Darkness, J.J. Abrams’ second blockbuster motion picture entry into his alternate timeline-placed saga, perhaps you’d care enough to boldly go and seek out new entertainment within the series’ traditional continuity.

Well, folks, the Star Trek Chronology Project has you covered. Spanning five television series from the original, far ahead of its time Gene Roddenbery-penned adventures of Captain Kirk to the prequel adventures of (the perhaps superior Quantum Leap’s) Scott Bakula as Captain Archer, and all three series and ten movies in between.

Old hands at sci fi chronology know well that placing the ten pre-Abrams Star Trek films within a canonically sensible order is no easy task. Nor is the division of the later seasons of Star Trek: The Next Generation, and its sequel/spin-offs Deep Space Nine and Voyager, which are all set more or less concurrently. However, the brave heroes at STCP have been hard at work with their captain’s log decoders, and the fruits of their labor are truly glorious.

A brief caveat: notably absent from the Star Trek Chronology Project are the novelizations, comic books, and animated series, all of questionable canonicity: this project exists only to codify the central live action canon, which standing alone paints a more than complete enough picture of this rich and engaging universe of the distant future.

I recommend taking advantage of the site’s detailed and intriguing look behind the curtain, revealing every aspect of their ordering methodology — a truly fascinating read by all accounts. Engage!

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By | Thursday, April 4, 2013 | 8:43 am | 1 Comment | Blog > Reviews
 
Find This Book At:
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View our database entry (coming soon!)
Includes Issues:Strangers in Paradise (Vol. 3) #77-90
Issue Dates:October 2005 – May 2007
Creator:
Terry Moore

This review contains spoilers. Skip To The Verdict? »

One of the more durable fan discussions when it comes to Dragon Ball Z revolves around just what point creator Akira Toriyama would have stopped the story if he weren’t being pressured to continue it by means of lots and lots of cash.  Giving fuel to these discussions is the perception that the series had several points where it made sense for the story to end, but didn’t, opting instead to repeat variations of the same plot until I no longer really gave a damn.

That same feeling of “you could have stopped there, so why didn’t you?” also pervades Terry Moore’s Strangers in Paradise. While presumably no suitcases full of money were involved in his case, his chronicle of the lives of best friends Francine Peters and Katina “Katchoo” Choovanski had, across its run, several points in which the story could have logically ended in a satisfactory manner.  The series continued, though, and while it was never really bad, there came a point where plotlines started to repeat themselves and it began seeming apparent that Moore had no particular place where he wanted to take the characters, as evidenced by the increasing list of dropped plotlines and retcons. While the book continuously flirted with the idea of setting its two protagonists together romantically, it had also made a more than solid case for why that future was just not in the cards:  Yes, Katchoo was deeply in love with Francine, and wanted nothing more than for them to spend their lives as a couple.  Yes, Francine loved Katchoo, and had even made attempts to give her what she wanted.  In the end, though, that’s as far as things ever got:  Francine could not bring herself to take the final leap, and what’s more, every time the idea was broached, it ended badly, eventually driving what seemed to be a permanent wedge between the two.

When we’d left the cast at the end of the last book, they had all, if not gotten exactly what they’d wanted, at least gotten to place where they’d been able to make peace with their personal demons. Katchoo’s career as an artist had taken off and she had just opened an art school. She and David, her other best friend / love interest, had gotten to a point in their relationship in which they could just be friends without drowning in drama.  Another friend, Casey, tired of the Vegas showgirl life, moved back to Houston; Freddy, her ex-husband, was dating a coroner and had managed, to a degree, to bury the hatchet in his relationship with Katchoo.  Only Francine had gotten what she initially wanted with her marriage to Brad Silver: despite rocky spots and her continued estrangement from Katchoo, her marriage appeared to be a success.

The story could have ended there.  Sure, it wouldn’t have been a particularly neat ending, but it would have been perfectly in line with the series’ argument that relationships are messy and complex. Instead, Moore decided to finish things with the “ideal” happy ending of getting his protagonist Katchoo together with the love of her life.

Thus, the job of this sixth volume is thus to destroy the status quo and return a sense of uncertainty to the characters’ lives, in order to set up the end game.  Katchoo and Francine reconcile.  David and Casey begin to date, only for the relationship to be jeopardized by the discovery that David has a brain tumor.  Francine discovers that Brad has cheated on her, just as his brother, famous crooner and recurring character Griffin Silver, is killed; she decides that Katchoo was always The One, and that she wants a divorce so that she can go after her.

Casey decides that she wants to have David’s baby before he dies, and Katchoo agrees to serve as surrogate, since Casey’s past bout with anorexia has left her unable to carry a child.  They also attempt to get their ducks in a row so that David can receive some experimental treatment for his tumor, but that measure proves ineffective as David dies.

David’s last will and testament leaves to Katchoo his billion dollar fortune (inherited from his dead half-sister Darcy Parker, and more theoretical than actual, given that is being held by the I.R.S., which plans to keep it tied up in red tape forever) and reveals that Casey had, for the entire period of time in which she knew the cast, been working for Tambi (a.k.a. Mary Beth Baker, Katchoo’s half-sister and the heir to a crime syndicate formerly led by Darcy, for whom Katchoo previously worked for as a prostitute) to spy on Katchoo and keep her safe.  Not long after, Francine and Katchoo finally get together, just in time to realize that a) they’re both pregnant, and b) that Tambi and Casey had arranged to free up half of David’s inheritance, making the new couple millionaires many many many many times over.  The end.

It is perhaps appropriate that the series ends with the two protagonists striking it rich, because the ending makes me think of watching somebody else win the lottery: it feels too easy, too unearned, and too arbitrary. As much a fan I was of the idea of Francine and Katchoo as a couple, the book had made too good a case for why that could not actually work in practice, and revisiting that idea again was the last thing I wanted for the book, particularly since the book then goes on to ignore the very complications it helped raise in its quest to get the characters together.  Suddenly, an epiphany is all Francine needs, which frankly, leaves me unconvinced: she’s had those before, too, and they didn’t help.

What’s more, it ends up feeling like a step backwards for both characters.  Francine’s new-found resolve never gets tested—Katchoo only puts up token resistance when Francince confesses her love, and any complications arising from her divorce are dealt with off-panel—and therefore the question of whether she’s actually all in never gets actually dealt with—we don’t find out if she’s truly changed because the story ends.  Plus, a huge part of Katchoo’s arc has been realizing that Francine is very much like her recurring alcohol problem, accepting that, and learning to be happy without her.  While that growth didn’t make a reunion out of the question—and I did appreciate the eventual rekindling of their friendship—the quickness with which it occurs makes me think not of romance, but of falling off the wagon.

Then there’s the twin pregnancies.  One I could have lived with, because children figured so heavily in Francine’s dream future–and even then, there was nothing requiring one to be introduced just as the two characters got together.  Two suggests that Moore believed a story about women couldn’t be truly happy if motherhood wasn’t thrust upon them, which is problematic, to say the least.  It’s especially frustrating, since the whole reason Katchoo consented to getting impregnated in the first place was because Casey wanted David’s child.  This, however, is never brought up again after we learn of Katchoo’s pregnancy; we’re left having to conclude that Casey for some unexplained reason stopped caring or stopped having a stake in what was to be her child, and it feels like a slap in the face.

The way the endgame treats Casey is probably what bothers me the most, not only because the “she’s a spy” retcon is a transparent ass pull—things like moving to Vegas makes absolutely no sense if her job was keeping an eye on Katchoo, and that’s only one of about a dozen inconsistencies the “twist” creates—but because it places everything about her in question.  Even the book doesn’t seem to be clear about how much of her life is fabricated—on the same scene where Freddy Femur argues that everything but the lie was the real her, he comments that he likes the real her better, which is nonsensical at best.  Perhaps more importantly, given how Casey had grown into something particularly special–characters like her are often jokes, so it was nice to see someone who’s ditzy and looks-oriented and guileless be treated like a complex person—the fact that we’re no longer able to take what she is on faith is heartbreaking.  It’s a completely unnecessary development, there, as far as I can see, to facilitate hooking her up with Tambi, which if that is the case, feels utterly disrespectful for both characters.

Equally disrespectful and frustrating is what Casey’s outing says about David.  While it is perfectly in character for him to out someone without their consent, the fact that doing so is, in effect, the last thing he ever does, leaves a bad taste in my mouth, compounded by the fact that this and other similar actions don’t stop everyone else from basically nominating him for sainthood. It’s things like this that prevent me from thinking Strangers in Paradise as an fully feminist text: in its unwillingness to call out problematic behavior, it helps normalize it.  Freddy Femur may be an ass, but at least the book didn’t pretend otherwise.

In short, the way the series tramples over everything in order to get to the end makes me want to hate this book with every fiber of my being.  It’d be the easiest thing in the world to do, except that Terry Moore is still an excellent storyteller, and even when the story itself isn’t up to snuff, he still tells it in ways few can.

Last week I bought the second issue of the Jimmie Robinson mini-series Five Weapons (it was quite good).  Among the various notable things about the book is the way its pages are structured around the exclusive use of the letterbox panel—panels that take up the entire width of the page—a detail I admit with no small amount of shame, I paid no attention to until it was mentioned elsewhere.

It’s impossible not to notice how pages are structured in Strangers in Paradise, however, or how the sheer variety of well-timed techniques help in making even the dodgiest of stories palatable.  Depending on the needs of the scene, Moore can be either very wordy—although never to the point of overwhelming the art—or completely silent.  There’s text pages, poetry, and mini-stories within the story, which combined with Moore’s gift for character design (People with different body types!  How is that not the bare minimum for artists?)  and expressions help make the world feel very real, despite the sometimes farfetched plotting. It’s the opposite approach to that of Archie: The Married Life, which nevertheless takes SiP to that same place.

One particular thing I’d like to mention about the art is the way it mostly manages to avoid the male gaze, which is particularly impressive given how much (unlikely to lead to pearl-clutching) nudity there actually is in the book.  There’s a particular scene in which Francine is taking a phone call while half-dressed, and it took some thinking before I actually realized that that was actually the case, because of casual it is treated—she could have been wearing pants, and the way the scene is staged wouldn’t have changed at all.  Like reality, the world of Strangers in Paradise is not one where nudity inherently suggests sex, which feels incredibly rare, in comics.

I want to like this comic so much.  Growing up, Strangers in Paradise formed an essential part in my formation as a comic book reader.  It helped me appreciate narratives outside the superhero subgenre, it broadened my then limited view of human sexuality, and it helped me realize that hey, stories about women matter.  It was by no means perfect or as progressive as it could have been—heaven knows it could have used more People of Color that didn’t all belong to the same family—but it was a sterling example of what mainstream comics could be, and should have been all along.  It deserved a better ending than it got.

Verdict:
The plot is rather horrible, but there’s no denying Moore’s storytelling chops. 3 out of 5.

Essential Continuity:
It depends on how much you want to see Katchoo and Francine get together.  If you want that, then yeah, this is kind of essential.  If not, you can totally check out at Book 5 and still get a satisfying ending of sorts.

Read first:
Books 1 – 5, all of which are better than this one and are just as accessible.

Read next:
I’ve recommended it before, but Rachel Rising, also by Terry Moore, really is great so far.

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