The return of Stray Bullets after a decade-long hiatus must be greeted with rapturous joy. In this new story arc, written and illustrated by David Lapham, we are drawn into a grim, noirish world of gangsters led by the psychotic Scottie, a mother desperate to save herself and her son, and a heroic modern-day samurai named Love Yourself.
Writer: David Lapham
Artist: David Lapham
Letterer: David Lapham
Editor: Maria Lapham
Cover Price: $3.99
Release Date: June 27, 2018
Previously in Stray Bullets: Psychedelic samurai, Love Yourself, finds himself protecting Rosie and her son from a group of crazed gangsters. Holed up in an apartment building, with threats on all sides, can Love Yourself save those he’s sworn to protect?
THOSE MEAN STREETS
Back in the day, when your reviewer heroically manned the counter at his local comic shop, he well remembers the shipment from America that contained our order of the first issue of Stray Bullets. And what a beauty it was – striking black and white art, coupled with a story built for speed and not afraid of taking prisoners.
After a high octane run, Stray Bullets went into hiatus as creator David Lapham sought new projects. Thankfully, in concert with Image Comics, Lapham has returned Stray Bullets to your comic book shelves. Stray Bullets: Sunshine and Roses #36 is part of the new arc and surely packs a mean punch.
BLACK AND WHITE AND READ ALL OVER
I love black and white artwork. Its simplicity, the striking use of light and shade often trump the distraction that colour can sometimes give. Lapham is no great stylist, but his artwork, conveyed in 8-panel pages throughout, never gets in the way of the writing and often packs a very mean punch. Love Yourself, armed with a machete, in the hands of Lapham, is surprisingly visceral even with the lack of colour. Little details, like the spray of blood from a head wound, are rendered powerfully in black.
THE RAYMOND CHANDLER OF COMICS NOIR
Stray Bullets: Sunshine and Roses #36 is brilliantly written and characterized. Lapham, like the very best crime writers, weaves character and story seamlessly together. Love Yourself, having turned aside from a life of crime, is intent on helping Rosie and her son, Joey. He offers cold philosophy, waxing lyrical on the joys of human relationships. To see him brought up short when Rosie tells him she doesn’t actually love her boyfriend is a joy to view.
The story, like all good stories, is very simple. Holed up in an apartment building, Rosie, her tin-foil hat-wearing boyfriend Vic and her son remain under Love Everything’s protection. There’s an amusing scene where all three have licked LSD laced postage stamps, resulting in Rosie yelling out ‘We had great sex and didn’t have to lock Joey in the closet.’ Well, you had to be there, I suppose.
When it becomes clear that Scottie’s crime gang have located his charges, Love Everything has to move them for their safety. Committed to a path of peace after a lifetime of violence, Love Yourself is still prepared to pick up his machete and go to war for the people he cares about. What ensues is mayhem and slaughter sufficient to delight all addicted to noir and other dark storytelling.
I remember avidly reading the first few issues of Stray Bullets, back in the mid-90s. It sparked in me an appreciation of noir, a world away from the cozy crime stories of Agatha Christie. Then, I drifted away. Thankfully, reading Stray Bullets: Sunshine and Roses #36 was like having a supernova go off in my head and reawakened my love for the series and the genre as a whole.
BOTTOM LINE – A MUST BY
While this issue is part of a long-running arc, in and of itself it is a perfectly formed pearl of a story. And given it is part of a longer story, the lure of more characters like this, more situations like this, should lead you all to should run, not walk, to your nearest local comic shop. And watch out for the man spouting peace and love while wielding a machete.
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