Woopak is reviewing a romance comic?! Unbelievable. But remember, I may not see ‘romance’ in the same definition as most people do. I see “Kill Bill” as one of the most romantic pieces of cinema ever produced (kidding). Well, anyway, I like anything that has originality and I do believe that comics are for the most part need a lot of respect than having super heroes in kiddie shows or products to promote cleaning up poop so I have to review something that promotes realism and definitely a more gritty story. Comics have evolved into a medium with a lot of sophistication, and has finally abandoned the staple seen by most as 'silly'; it has become more grounded in reality with stories that aren't meant for kids. "Strangers in Paradise" is one perfect example....
Terry Moore’s “Strangers in Paradise” is a romance comic at its core and volume one collects its early issues. The set up is pretty much your basic romance book; David is in love with Katchoo, while Katchoo has feelings for Francine. Francine is in turn in love with Freddie and is holding off on sex until she can be reassured. Freddie is in love with himself. So there you have it, a comic book filled with crazy and nutty developments and sequences that can make Tarantino green with envy.
What makes Moore’s creation different is the way he handles its premise. The characters feel real and what happens to them can easily be related to. Things like this can happen in real life; (ok, not the way things actually happen since I wouldn’t want to wish anyone to suffer the stuff that some of the characters went through) and the dialogue helps the pace and the way it connects to the reader makes for a very humorous adventure. “Strangers in Paradise” is very dark, and most of the things about it cannot be grasped by the casual comic fan who are used to the staples of the goofy, silly stories of the 40’s and the 50’s.
Moore’s creation is rich with feminist themes, Katchoo represents the ultimate best friend and lover. She would do anything for Francine and expects no credit for it. Francine is a woman with a big heart and would do anything to please her man. She shows a damaged side of her as expressed through her reluctance to sex, and her willingness to give in to the desires of man. In some way, Francine embodies how love can sometimes blind us to the truth and how it can be disastrous to fall in love with the wrong person. Katchoo is the one who knows what she is doing most of the time, and she usually goes by her instincts and about seizing the moment. She is tough and crazy, but she also is very smart and has the ‘balls’ to do pretty much anything for Francine. Yes, Moore serves up several cautionary messages for women as he portrays men as the bad guy for the most part.
However, Moore shows a lighter note to the male as David shows compassion and commitment to Katchoo who really isn’t interested in his attentions. While Freddie embodies the selfish, self-centered male, David is many ways is a reflection of the images of both Francine and Katchoo. He does things from his heart and is filled with sincerity, and yet he is underappreciated. In many ways, Moore serves up a cautionary tale for men as well; as it plants the idea how men reap what they sow (the jailhouse guard) and that women are no mere playthings and should be treated as equals. I did enjoy the way Katchoo got her payback and how Francine manages to get 'one up' over Freddie.
Collecting the stories from “Breaking Up is Hard to do”, “Katchoo’s Revenge”, "Busted" and “Over My Dead Body”, volume one is pretty much all about love or lack of it. It also collects various other stories such as “The Splits” and “Sweet Dreams”, the book is the whole package as it even has an interview with Terry Moore. The dialogue has some profanity and the book does have several sequences of violence and hinted at nudity. Personally I liked the black and white approach, made me pay attention to the stories rather than any fancy visuals. What makes “Strangers in Paradise” is the way the characters interact and how the dialogue runs the story. It makes for a rewarding read as we see several overtones of becoming a stranger to happiness, how sometimes the good thing just remains unseen and unnoticed by our naked eye. Sometimes, the heart wants what it wants, and then our brain thinks we want something else….
Highly Recommended! [4+ Out of 5 stars]
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This quality hardbound volume is the first in a series collecting the SIP story in its complete story arcs. Book One contains the entire original mini-series that introduced Francine, Katchoo, David, Freddie and more. Plus, a 5 page short story, sketchbook pages, character designs, creator notes featuring never before seen pages of script and unused scenes, and for the first time ever, actual pages from the original version of issue one that Moore never published, choosing instead to redraw the entire issue before its release date, altering scenes and characters alike. This is a must have book for the new reader and serious collector alike!