Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Strangers in Paradise

Since taking up the Graphic Novel calling, I decided to spend some time browsing the pretty slim selection that my library has in stock. And I came across this little gem: Strangers in Paradise Pocket Book 1, Vol. 1 by Terry Moore (Abstract Studio, 360 pgs, 2004).

This is the story about friendship, first and foremost. Katina "Katchoo" Choovanski and Francine Peters have been friends since high school. Ten years later, they are now roommates. While Katchoo is strong, independent and self-reliant, Francine is just the opposite. She is insecure, timid and spends her time letting men walk all over her....to the utter dismay of Katchoo. Even though they are best friends, Katchoo is hopelessly in love with Francine.

But one day, while browsing an art gallery, Katchoo meets David, who is unlike any man she has ever met. He is gentle and kind....and falls hard for Katchoo. Even though she flat out tells him she is not interested in men, David installs himself into the girls' lives and quickly becomes a friend. When Francine is dumped by her boyfriend of a year, Freddie Femur, Katchoo goes on a rampage and gets arrested for assault. The arrest starts a chain of events that brings out a lot of ghosts from Katchoo's past. And while she is terrified that Francine will think less of her, Katchoo opens up to David about how bad things had been for her. And the things she had to do to survive.

When Katchoo disappears for just over a month, Francine and David start to become friends. But Francine, who is still reeling over losing Freddie, finds out about Katchoo's secrets, she is not so much disappointed in knowing that Katchoo was hiding portions of her life....but that she choose to share that past with David, and not her.

While half the beauty of reading a graphic novel like The Sandman was in seeing the beautiful illustrations, it's different with Strangers in Paradise. The illustrations are definitely second to the story and the characterization. Set in black and white, the pictures are simplistic and subtle. But the characters are so deep. Moore alternates from dark and violent to light and ditsy with ease. There is much more to the story than just a simple love triangle. There is murder, mayhem and the mafia involved....as well as $850,000 in stolen mob money.

And while Katchoo could easily be just a stereotypical independent man-hater, Moore develops her into so much more. By reading her back story, you come to find out the reasons she has become the hard-shelled woman that would rather shoot you than speak to you. But under the incredibly tough exterior is really a shattered little girl that has a tender heart and wants to be loved too. Francine is insecure and ditsy, but she also has more hidden underneath....although we don't learn as much about her in this volume.

I couldn't read this book fast enough. I just had to know what was going to happen next. And through the book, poetry is used to lace the different sections together. That is probably the most surprising and delightful part of the whole book.

There's a shadow on my back
From a light that never cracks,
I come to you in my sorrow,
A broken man who has to borrow,
In my eyes it's plain to me,
You're my star and destiny.
An empty house I call mine,
Deep in debt and buying time.
Turn what's left of energy
Into you, my only dream.
In my eyes it's clear to me
That you're my star and destiny.
Shine for me,
Blind my sight,
Don't let me see,
What I can't fight.
In my heart
You are there
Precious pain
But I don't care
Cause in my eyes
It's clear to me,
You're my star
And Destiny.

I can't recommend this book enough. But a mild comic it's not. Harsh, violent and abrasive at times, there are no superheroes. There are no fairy tales. Just people, dealing with some extraordinary problems. And that's what makes this comic so unique. 4.5/5


Debi said...

Wow Stephanie, this really does sound great! Thanks...I hadn't heard of this one before, but will definitely be looking for it now.

Ladytink_534 said...

My library has a very slim selection as well. Poetry in a graphic novel? That's different! I hope you enjoy future vol. just as much!

Ana S. said...

Wow, this sounds amazing! And I'd never even heard of it before. Thank you, Stephanie!

Kailana said...

This sounds interesting! I will have to see if my lacking library has a copy!

Kimmie said...

I'd be willing to bet my library doesn't have it. But I'm going to look anyway.

Stephanie said...

Debi - I liked the cover and got lucky it was the first volume of 6 different pocket books. Really good. Very tough topics. Real life stuff. I was very impressed! Very strong female stuff!

Tink - There is one bookcase in my entire library....and it's mostly superhero stuff. Not really up to reading Batman or Spiderman!! I'm going to see if I can find the other 5 somewhere! The poetry was just an added plus!

Nymeth - A book you haven't read??? I don't believe it!!

Kailana - Glad to see my library isn't the only one lacking. But I feel for you!! Hopefully you can find it!

Kimmie - It's well worth the read! But there are a lot of tough topics. Not you average comic book stuff.

Joanne ♦ The Book Zombie said...

I've got this one on my Dewey challenge reading list. Your review makes me want to start it asap! I really like how you pointed out that the illustrations are secondary to the characters - very rare in graphic novels but so cool :)

Stephanie said...

Joanne - It's really good. When I opened it up, I was a little unsure. I mean, I just got done reading Fables and The Sandman! Then there is this book, black and white pictures. Nothing really special. But then I started reading....oh so good!

I hope you enjoy it!

Jill said...

I hadn't heard of this one - it sounds intriguing. Thanks for bringing it to my attention!

christina said...

I just added this to my library thing (TBR) list. It sounds awesome.

Did you realize that it was part of a series? At least LT implies that. :)