Strangers in Paradise XXV represents the pinnacle of storytelling in the comics medium, and issue #9 is an absolute gem. No other creator working in comics today has single-handedly forged a more complex yet interconnected world for his emotionally rich and superbly complicated characters than Terry Moore.
Integrating all his previous series (Strangers in Paradise, Echo, Rachel Rising, and Motor Girl) with his characteristic charm, Moore varies the pace in SiP XXV from issue to issue (and frequently within issues as well) to keep readers delightfully off-balance and provide a tangible element of suspense even for dialogue-driven action-light issues like #9.
In this issue Lilith has arrived, and although Katchoo has no intention of believing that this is the Lilith, she is certainly unnerved. As the characters move indoors to discuss the papyrus that Katchoo has just delivered, Katchoo delays entering the house and looks out at the snow-covered field and the birds that gathered in Lilith’s wake. It’s a moment that Moore lets develop using an entire page—with four panels on the wordless page, we join Katchoo’s feeling of dread, confusion, unease, and her hesitation to learn more than perhaps she wants to know.
Moore’s mastery of his characters is on full display when he allows them contemplative moments like this to question their choices and bemoan all that is beyond their control. Katchoo just wants to go home to Francine and the kids. Instead, she’s about to realize that rather than merely being a pawn in Stephanie’s game, she’s actually part of something so much bigger.
Moore’s economical black-and-white artwork is straightforward and expressive. But if you make the mistake of skimming through the panels, you’ll miss details vital to understanding the characters and the situations they bring to life. You’ll enjoy a Moore issue on the first reading, but you’ll understand what’s happening on the second reading. Enjoy the reading process, every panel is critical to the plot and Moore enjoys employing wordless panels that set a mood and challenge the readers to piece together important story elements.
And I have to mention the snow—no one draws snow in black and white like Moore. He’s conducting a clinic in presenting blowing, falling snow with chilling effect as we see a cloaked Lilith easily moving across the field as if in defiance of the weather. Perfect.
If you haven’t been reading Moore’s comics for the last 25 years, no problem, you can still enjoy this series. Moore provides enough background information each issue to make natural connections between the characters, and the plot is more than interesting enough to fascinate new (and longtime) readers.
Of course, if you’d like to catch up on all the other series, they are available in trades, and I highly recommend them, too.
Terry Moore (W/A) • Abstract Studios, $3.99
Review by Karen O’Brien