Terry Moore – Strangers in Paradise, Vol. 2 & 3
24 & 30. Strangers in Paradise, Pocket Books 2 & 3 by Terry Moore (2004)
Strangers in Paradise Pocket Books, Volumes 2 and 3
Read my review of:
1. Book 1
Length: 344 pages (2), 368 pages (3)
Genre: General Fiction, Graphic Novel
Started / Finished: 13 February 2011 (2), 23 February 2011 (3)
Where did it come from? The library.
Why do I have it? Still Memory’s fault.
Loving someone is
hard enough without their past
coming back for them.
Summary: Volume 2 starts with a framing story set well into the future from the story in Volume 1: Francine’s been married for ten years, and hasn’t spoken to Katchoo in all that time. The story then jumps back in time to continue the story from Volume 1: Francine and Katchoo have moved into a tiny apartment together, and they continue to dance around the truth of their relationship, orbited by David. But they’ll never be entirely free to figure out what they mean to each other while the specter of David’s sister and Katchoo’s former employer, the crime boss Darcy Parker, still has a hold on each of them.
In Volume 3, Katchoo thinks she’s finally free of her past, and settles down to try to make a life with Francine and David, the only people in this world she really loves. Just regular living can be tricky, though, and their relationships have their ups and downs, as all relationships do. Not all relationships come with a past that refuses to die, however, and when Katchoo’s catches up to her yet again, she’ll have to decide what she’s willing to sacrifice to keep the people she loves safe.
Review: Compared to my normal reading, and especially compared to my normal graphic novel reading, Strangers in Paradise is pretty far out there, enough so that I’m not entirely sure how to fairly review it. On the one hand, it’s soapy as hell: a lot of relationship drama set in the middle of a plot involving mobsters and governmental conspiracy and prostitution rings and other such stuff that feels like it could have come straight out of terrible late-night movie. But here’s the thing: somehow, miraculously, Moore pulls it off. And he does this by creating characters that are real people, that are awesome real people, characters that you love, that make you laugh, that make you care, and that break your heart just the eensiest bit.
What absolutely killed me in Volume 2’s story was towards the end, where Moore steps even farther back in time, back to the high school days during which Francine and Katchoo first became friends. That story was poignant enough on its own, but knowing what the two of them would go through together in the future made it absolutely heartwrenching, especially when it was contrasted with the 10-years-future framing story where they’re (as-yet-unexplainedly) estranged. Masterfully done.
Volume 3 had a number of totally heartbreaking moments as well. Moore bounces back and forth between the “present” storyline and the “10 years future” storyline, as it inches closer and closer to the terrible event that caused the great rift between Francine and Katchoo. And Moore doesn’t pull any punches, that’s for sure, especially when it comes to the ways we can knowingly and unknowingly destroy the ones we love. No kidding: less than 25 pages in, and I’d already cried once. Part of it comes because Moore is so good at creating characters that we care about, part of it is because he’s good at putting them in situations – no matter how soapy – that cause recognizable reactions, and part of it is because I’m always scared for the sake of the characters, because I absolutely do not trust Moore not to do terrible things to them, both emotionally and otherwise.
By the end of Volume 3, I’ll admit I was a getting a little tired of the business involving the organized crime ring power struggle. I’m here for the characters, so can we get back to them please? But truthfully, those sections were relatively short, and Moore gets back to the good (by which I mean occasionally good but also occasionally heart-stompingly painful) parts pretty quickly. 4 out of 5 stars.
Recommendation: Based on the description, I never would have guessed that I’d enjoy it as much as I am, so I’m not entirely sure how to recommend it to others. But for anyone looking for a compelling and character-driven graphic novel series, this one certainly fits the bill. I’ll be reading more, no question.
Links: An Unshelved comic strip starring SiP.
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