Or, â€œWith the absence of old friends, new ones appearâ€¦â€
A number of years ago, I picked up a title which I knew nothing about called Strangers In Paradise. While I was just looking for anything to read during a slow release week, I found a friendship which lasted for many years. Katchoo, Francine, David and the rest of the cast where welcome into my life, and those of several friends, with each new issue. SiP was one of the first books I was able to hook my wife on when we where dating, and it was one we read all the way till the last issue was published.
The writer/artist of Strangers In Paradise is one Terry Moore. At a time when most comics where strictly superhero and featured women with unrealistic body types, Moore dazzled us with healthy body images and female lead characters that could make you cry with a look. While his mainstream work in the superhero market has been sparse, it is always a treat to see how it works.
Now, after much anticipation, he has released his first creator owned work since Strangers In Paradise concluded. It goes to prove that you can change the tune, but the instrument stays the same.
So, here is the set-up: Photographer Julie Martin is in the desert taking photos of flowers when she hears an explosion in the air above her. Looking up, she sees the explosion as well as a jet fighter streak overhead. Her photographer instincts take over and as she begins to take photos, she is bombarded with small, putty-like pellets which stick to her body, the ground around her, and her truck. In a panic, she rushes home after a large piece of debris falls into the back of her pick-up.
What Julie witnessed was the destruction of an experimental weapon/body suit by its creators. Foster, apparently one of the suits creators, ordered jets to fire upon the suit while it was still being piloted by a young air jockey named Annie. She was presumably killed in the blast over 17,000 feet above the Earth. The project seems to be in conjunction with the military, as we have soldiers guarding the explosion area. Speaking of those soldiers, they go as far as to bar a United States Park Ranger named Dillon from entry to the site. It seems that there is an effort to cover up the experiment, as well as recover the pieces.
When we see Julie back at her home, she is covered with the little â€œputty pellets.â€ We get a glimpse of her personal life as she checks her messages, and we find that her life is in about the same condition as the explosion she saw earlier. She is getting divorced and she has creditors hounding her. Her life is pretty much in the crapper, and it does not seem like it is getting any better. When she finally investigates the metal object, which fell into the back of her truck, she notices that part of it is cupped as if to fit over a shoulder. When she touches it to her shoulder, some sort of chain reaction is set off and all the little â€œputty-pelletsâ€ begin to crawl upward toward the bigger piece. She screams, and when the crawling is done, she has a large piece of metal covering some of her upper chest and shoulder area which she cannot remove.
The pacing to this story is nice. This issue takes it time with set up, something that Moore excels at. We are introduced to the main characters, and unlike SiP, it seems that we get a pretty good idea who the bad guys are from the get go. But, having read a lot of Terry Moore, nothing is what it seems and your friends can become your enemies and vice versa. Over all, this story makes you want to find out more about the cast, and you even start to feel for some.
A great, if sparse, set up for a larger story. The art is classic Moore, and you have those realistically beautiful women he excels at. Mooreâ€™s women could walk down the street and get no stares other than for the fact that they are simply beautiful. The fact that all the art is in black and white makes it even more enjoyable, as the clean lines help define the story. There is a familiarity here that makes you comfortable, but at the same time excited for the differences. I give this first issue 4 out of 5 stars.
This issue picks up shortly after the first, and continues the story of Julie the photographer. Julieâ€™s life gets more complicated as she has more of the â€œputty-pelletsâ€ swarm her and join with the shoulder piece, practically turning into a breastplate. She is shunned at the emergency room as a prankster, and begins to suspect that the â€œbreastplateâ€ (for lack of a better term) has some odd properties, as it tingles at odd moments before odd things happen. We see more of her personal life and we realize that this girl has absolutely no luck whatsoever.
On another front, suit creator/project manager Foster beings to bring in more resources to help him find the rest of the beta suit. It seems they have reason to believe that an unidentified man was also in the blast zone, and they have photographic evidence that Julie was there. When he calls in an operative to assist the military in the search, you just know that it is not going to go well for Julie.
This issue picks up the speed slightly from the first, and poses more questions that beg to be answered. Why does the breastplate tingle occasionally and what is the mysterious symbol which appeared on the front? Who was the mystery man at the site? Who is Foster and what are his true objectives? Will Julie get her gas turned back on? Again, we have the spectacular art and great cinematic storytelling from Moore. The story basis is still being set-up, but fans of Moore know that the longer he takes the bigger the payoff. This issue is slightly better than the first, but that is mainly because Moore is steadily advancing the story. While it is a different genre than the Strangers In Paradise series, it still has that familiar feel and looks like it is going to be building up to a great story. As with the first, I give this issue 4 out of 5 stars.
Overall, this is a great addition to Terry Mooreâ€™s volume of work. The first issue has sold out, and there is the chance that with several upcoming high profile projects (new writer on Spider-Man Loves Mary Jane and also The Runaways), that he will be getting even more exposure from people who would have possibly passed over this great little story otherwise. It is not main stream, and is another great alternative to the standard superhero book. Pick them up while you have the chance.