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Strangers

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Sarah just returned the latest issues of Strangers in Paradise, which she'd borrowed to read. Her returning them got me to finally sit down and read the last couple; I'd fallen behind.

Spoiler warning:This entry contains spoilers for the latest issue of SIP, along with my prediction about what happens next.

Terry Moore does some phenomenal work. I like his art; his characters are often fascinating and have a lot of potential; and the moments of emotional interaction are some of the best in comics.

And yet, he also does some infuriating things. So far in this series we've had something like three repetitions of almost exactly the same storyline. The plot twists are soap-opera-level melodramatic. And the attempted romance between Francine and Katchoo drives me totally nuts—because every dozen issues or so, they make totally clear to each other that they love each other and want to spend their lives together, and there appears to be a happy ending, and then in the next issue there's no sign of that having ever happened, and we're back to Francine deciding that she can't love a woman (certainly not sexually) because that's weird. Yes, I recognize that in real life the course of true love ne'er did run smooth, and that real-life relationships often go through years of on-again off-again uncertainty, doubt, waffling, and one-step-forward-two-steps-back progress. But in fiction, I get tired of it by the second or third repetition-without-major-variations.

And so, I adore the latest issue, which has a laugh-out-loud funny happy ending. Sweet and charming and all-around lovely. But I'll be awfully surprised if Francine doesn't start out issue 50 by saying "I'm sorry, Katchoo, I love you but I could never get physical with you, because that would be too weird. Back to Brad for me." I find this back-and-forth particularly infuriating because Moore gives us lots of scene breaks that in any movie would imply that the two of them are about to have sex, but then later suggests in passing that they actually didn't.

I heartily applaud Moore's moving and realistic portrayals of polyamory and bisexuality (despite the fact that nobody in the comic has ever heard of those words), but I wish he could come up with a new plotline.

It doesn't help that he continues to interrupt the story. The pair of issue-long dream sequences a few issues back (with no indication that they were dream sequences) almost made me stop buying the series, and his comment in the lettercol in the next issue, something like "How could you think I would throw away eight years of this story?" also annoyed me. (People sometimes do things that you don't expect them to. I rarely see somebody doing something and think "I can't imagine that they would do that, so they must actually be doing something else"; I trust my sensory input more than I trust my mental models of human behavior.)

And the text pieces. At least the recent ones aren't teeth-grittingly bad; his prose style is gradually improving. But it's still often clumsy, particularly in contrast to his generally fluid and graceful pictorial storytelling.

Finally, I am annoyed that the poorly conceived "Molly and Poo" text piece is going to be reprinted as the next issue. I hated it the first time around, I hate it now. But it's probably too late for me to tell the comic shop to cancel my standing order for the series in time to miss that issue.

Boy, I'm just a sourpuss today, aren't I? I did honestly really like the latest issue (#48).

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