The premiere noir comic book on the market continues as Beth and Orson race the clock and one very angry gangster to save Nina.  Join them as they race the desert highways of Arizona, stop off for a bit of lovin’, and barrel towards a devastating cliffhanger in Stray Bullets:  Sunshine and Roses #37.

Stray Bullets #37 ReviewStray Bullets:  Sunshine and Roses #37

Writer & Art:  David Lapham
Letterer: David Lapham
Editors: Maria Lapham
Publisher: Image
Price: $4.99
Release Date: August 1, 2018

Previously in Stray Bullets:  Sunshine and Roses: While the Psychedelic Samurai from issue 36 dukes it out with villainous Kretchmeyer, Beth, Orson and Nina have their own travails to deal with.  Narrowly escaping with her life after a party gone badly awry, Beth wakes up beside a man with a hole in his head, and a very bad headache herself.

ON THE ROAD AGAIN

After the events of the previous issue, we return out West to Beth and Orson.  This run of Stray Bullets is set some years before the main run of the comic before it went into temporary hiatus.  On its return, Lapham took the opportunity to go back in time and let us look at younger versions of characters from that run.  So, it’s April 22, 1982 and Beth wakes up, bloodied and bruised, next to a man with a bullet in his temple, in a trashed motel room.  Things rapidly go downhill from there.

David Lapham’s stripped back writing style is on full display throughout Stray Bullets:  Sunshine and Roses #37.  He’s not afraid to convey the story via silent panels, as a groggy Beth wakes up in a panic, grabs a discarded gun, and opens fire through a shattered window.  These opening pages convey her sense of panic and desperation, before seamlessly transitioning to an earlier scene, with Beth and her best friend Nina tied back to back just as a group of men come in looking to party.

Orson shows up, and sooner than you can holler ‘road trip’ the two are in his car on a chase to California to rescue Nina, taken hostage against a half-million-dollar reward.  Along the way, a clearly concussed Beth begins to hear advice from the radio that isn’t of the musical variety, while arguing and then reconciling with Orson.

Orson’s eagerness to back Beth up in her quest to free Nina contrasts nicely with the anticipation of violence and overall urgency hovering over the story.  There are nice moments of introspection from Beth who realizes how badly she has treated Orson.  And there’s a nice moment of humor at exactly the right time when Beth deals with the chatty radio once and for all.

A WRITER’S WRITER

Lapham knows his story and his setting inside out and back to front.  With Stray Bullets:  Sunshine and Roses #37, he juggles both timelines with finesse, knowing the right moment to transition from one to the other, expertly pacing the action and reveals as the story races to the final page.  I reviewed the previous issue of Stray Bullets:  Sunshine and Roses, and every positive comment I made then about the writing applies wholeheartedly to this issue.

Of course, Lapham also handles the art duties, in glorious black and white.  Despite the lack of color, his ability to contain visceral action and its consequence is second to none.  The very first panel gives us a close up of the dead man with a bullet in his head.  The little details of brain matter on his forehead, the streaming blood from both the mouth and head wound, are even more gut-wrenching than if color was splashed all over it.  While some might regard his art as somewhat basic, I would argue the opposite – the spare artwork does as much to convey the urgency of the plot as the writing, without color getting in the way of the reading experience.

BOTTOM LINE – MORE PLEASE

I’m an unabashed fan of this comic, and this issue.  True, if you’re not into violent crime, or characters who have dived deep into that world, then this book isn’t for you.  I will say that even if crime writing isn’t your thing, the great writing, excellent characterization, and striking visuals are elements that all fans of comics should dip into once in a while.  As for me, I’m in the backseat with Beth and Orson as they hightail it into the horizon in search of fortune.

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About Author

Romantic. Raconteur. Kangaroo rustler. Sadly, Rob is none of these. Rob has been a follower of genre since at least the mid-1970s. Book collector, Doctor Who fan, semi-retired podcaster, comic book shop counter jockey, writer (once!) in Doctor Who Magazine and with pretensions to writing fantasy and horror, Rob is the sort of fellow you can happily embrace while wondering why you're doing it. More of his maudlin thoughts can be found at his ill-tended blog https://robertmammone.wordpress.com/

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