dreamcatchings: (esotsm: heartlost)
[personal profile] dreamcatchings
Strangers in Paradise seemed like a good place to start this project considering that I just finished reading the series less than a week ago. This is the first time I had ever read it. I should have read it ages ago. I was always interested in the idea of it. I had heard good things about it, after all. Not from any of my friends because the great age of my comic reading spanned from about the age of 8 to 17. This meant that all of my comic reading friends were either ones I had converted or boys in my classes. Let's also step back a minute and consider that once I moved to Indiana from New Orleans, I was in a fairly tiny school system. My graduating class was made up of 131 people. Unless we had new people move in, I was interacting with basically the same people from grade 5 through senior year of high school. Most of the boys in my grade who read comics were into either the same ones that I was or they read other super hero books. Wizard became the primary way that I was introduced to new material unless I happened to stumble onto it in the comic book store as the owners of the comic books stores I frequented were notorious for ignoring the little girl mooning over the new comic selection and rummaging through their back issues.

So it was that I first read about Strangers in Paradise all those many years ago in Wizard. I vaguely recall being somewhat interested in it, but not enough to seek it out. I was young. I had a very limited amount of money, and a pretty big comic book habit as it was. I sort of put it into the back of my mind as something I would inevitably pick up someday, and, if fact, through the years I would occasionally think about it. It was one of those things, though, where I never really saw it. It was never prominently featured at my comic book stores. By the time I was in college, I was barely even going to comic book stores. I never saw it at the bookstores. It just sort of slipped away.

Then I became friends with [livejournal.com profile] wanderlustlover, and I was reminded of Strangers in Paradise because she has icons of it and mentioned it in several posts. Still I never thought to seek it out. It just elevated itself in my mind as something I should read. While [livejournal.com profile] wanderlustlover and I have differing tastes in some areas, I still highly value her opinion. This was the first friend I'd had that had mentioned Strangers in Paradise.

I'll be honest. I still haven't bought the series. Once I had my Kindle Fire and had figured out how to get it to read cbr and cbz files, I went looking for more digital comics to put on it. I was fortunate enough to find a source to download the complete Strangers in Paradise series. Even after I had done that it took me a little while to get around to reading it, and I had to take some breaks in order to read other things.

I did finish it, though. I powered through the rest of it last weekend.

My feelings about the series are sort of mixed. It's definitely a good series, and Terry Moore managed to make this handful of people and their interpersonal relationships fascinating, dynamic and real while still maintaining a complexity that typically only exists in comic books. The people always felt real even when the situations themselves seemed contrived and over the top. It's difficult to describe Strangers in Paradise to someone who hasn't read it. I recently tried to do this with a co-worker of mine when we were trading suggestions of good comics back and forth. I cannot recall the exact phrasing I used, but I know that I told him it was about the changing relationships between three friends, which is a bit of a lie in and of itself considering that the circle is much bigger but I was trying to sum up, while at the same time it had elements of mystery and film noir. It really does feel film noir to me a lot. Actually less film noir and more those old detective novels. You surely know the ones I mean. Think Raymond Chandler. That's what Strangers in Paradise evokes for me.

Something about it always kept me at arm's length, too, which I think it probably purposeful when we consider the characters that the story is about and their interactions with each other. A lot of secrets and feelings are hidden, walls are built up in order to keep people away, truths are not admitted. It seems very fitting then for the story and the characters to seem somewhat distant and removed. My favorite parts of it, to be honest, were seeing how the characters got to where they were now. I really liked the sequence when we see the characters in high school and their interactions there. If anything I wanted more of the past. I wanted to see more of the somewhat convoluted pieces that had gotten everyone to where they were now.

The ending almost seemed too clean and perfect, but I'm sure that Terry was doing what both the characters and the readers deserved and wanted. Despite that, though, I felt as though it wasn't a good culmination. It was the perfect culmination, but it seemed more like the way you end a dream rather than the way things are in real life. In this way it broke out of that film noir, Raymond Chandler feeling for me and reached more toward Hollywood. That sort of disappointed me. I almost felt like it would break and reveal itself to be another of the alternate roads that Terry showed us earlier in the series, but it didn't. It stuck. That unnerves me a little. I keep expecting the other shoe to drop and something awful to happen.

I was also unhappy with the way certain characters were introduced, their problems and lives examined and then just forgotten. I would have liked to know more about them and what became of them. Pia for example or David's twin. This, of course, is just another way in which Terry brings a sense of very real life into the series. In life people touch our lives and then disappear. That's one of the big themes of the series, I think. It's certainly one of the greatest fears of both Katchoo and Francine. All these people have left both of their lives in some way. It only seems fair that this theme would extend to the side characters they come into contact with.

All in all, though, I would recommend this series. It's well done. The pacing is occasionally off in that it moves too slow or too fast in areas. This is another example of how it remains true to life so I'm not complaining about it too much. The characters are handled well, and they feel like real people for the most part. Of the core three the only one who felt untrue to me in the slightest was David. That might have been my reading of him more than Terry's portrayal of him. Strangely enough despite being the most open of the three, David was the one I had the hardest time getting close to.

There is a lot of humor in the book as well as profound sadness and hardship. It's just like life really. Read it as a moment in time or many moments in time. It's a look into the complex relationships that we spin between people and how love can thrive and survive through the hardest of things. The theme of love circles through all. David might be the first to utter it that way, but it's present through the entire thing if you know where to look.


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July 2012

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