Review and Preview: Strangers In Paradise XXV #1

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Review and Preview: Strangers In Paradise XXV #1

Terry Moore returns to his wildly popular comic-book series with Strangers In Paradise XXV. Celebrating twenty-five years since the first issue of the original series was published, SIPXXV gives us an all-new story about Katrina Choovanski and Helen Francine Peters-Silver (Katchoo and Francine to their friends. And everyone else who knows what’s good for them), their attempts to live a normal life, and the dark past that just won’t leave them alone. Click the jump for a review, a few preview pages from the first issue, and a little retrospective about the original series.

Checking my inbox and finding the first issue of a full Strangers in Paradise story in over ten years absolutely made my day. SIP was my addiction, my reason to obsessively check the release schedule for new comic books, and to haunt the forums where fellow fans picked over the nuances in every frame of every issue. Sure, the story was like a soap opera. Yes, the characters regularly drove me nuts with their temper tantrums and their heartbreaks and their infuriatingly bad decisions. And I loved every bit of it, every character, every storyline, every stroke of Terry Moore’s beautifully expressive black-and-white art.

So it’s odd that I feel just a little bit of trepidation that the series is starting up again.

Or maybe not so odd. You see, endings are tricky. Moore’s other series – Rachel Rising, Echo, Motor Girl – were all excellent stories with perfectly good endings that somehow still felt like the rug was getting yanked out from under me. It’s hard to let a story go, especially when you’re left with the feeling of “What? That’s it? But we were just getting started!”

Strangers In Paradise stands out as having one of the best endings to a comic book series that I’ve ever read. It was bittersweet, and romantic, and a little comical, but mostly just perfectly finished. In the final page Francine smiles at us from the middle of the life she’s always wanted (she just had to get a few of the details right) and then gently but firmly closes the door on their story.

Well, the door’s back open now.

The first issue jumps right into the action with a cell phone theft, leading a woman to walk away from her own perfect life without a backward glance. We quickly realize that the woman is a Parker Girl, one of the last surviving ones. If you’re not clear on the whole history (and sometimes Moore’s storylines could take a long time to get to the point, so a little fuzziness on the details is understandable) the Parker Girls were part of a crime syndicate run by Katchoo’s former lover, Darcy Parker. The syndicate would spy on wealthy and/or high-ranking men by having women infiltrate their lives as lovers, or even wives, for years. And when the job is done or their cover is blown, they’re gone. Moore does his usual excellent job with nailing expressions with just a few lines; there’s just one frame where the Parker Girl realizes the jig is up …shit… and then she’s outta there.

The problem is that Katchoo used to be a Parker Girl as well, and she and her friends have to find this woman quickly, before she can destroy all of their lives.

So yes, I’m worried that a happily-ever-after is going to get derailed here. And I’m still going to read every issue the moment I get my hands on it. I want to know what Katchoo and Francine’s lives have been like. I want to see how things progressed between Katchoo’s half-sister Tambi and perpetual party-girl Casey. Heck, I even want to see Mr. His Own Worst Enemy Freddie Femur, who believe it or not may have a heart of gold. (It’s about an inch across, buried under a half-ton of slime.)

And a new series will be a good way to prepare for the next incarnation of the series: a Strangers In Paradise movie. My nervousness about the new comic book is nothing compared to what I feel about a movie adaptation.