Stray Bullets by David Lapham
It's hard to deliver good visuals and a strong story in the same book, but this book delivers. Let me stress this book is not a super hero book, it's about life. Extreme circumstances, sure, but real and complicated people, with every-day problems thrown into extraordinary circumstances. But the real treat of this book is the way the people are connected.
This book delivers continuity in a new fashion, by ignoring serial-linear story telling. It's quite brilliant. The meaning behind the name of the series stems from that continuity play. Take a line of time. Imagine time as one piece of yarn stretched tight. Now take a gun and fire a bullet at a seemingly random part of that line. That's where the next book picks up. At the end of the story, fire the gun again and pick up where that bullet hits. But the joy of the series is still to come. Every story, though seemingly random, is another point where our lead character of the book intersects another leading character from a previous story. It's a magnificent play on how each of us are connected in some way.
Sometimes as an Easter Egg, sometimes as an inegral part of the protagonist's character arc. Sometimes they are related. These cross-cameos are both intriguing and delightful. Our lead in issue #5 leaves on a cliffhanger and you're left wondering what happened. In issue #12 he shows up, ten years later and aged with sometimes new motivation. But you know the character. Sometimes the writing is sculpted so perfectly the character speaks in almost an inside joke to the reader. We know where he's been, the other characters in the story do not.
When I say you recognize the characters, let me stress it's not because they have an iconic uniform, or everyone is saying their name twenty times. It's cause you visually recognize them. Davip Lapham does the amazing in giving each character a look and continuing that look throughout the series. What I mean is too many times 'great' comic artists, with their cross-hatching and swollen muscles and fifteen satchels, usually miss one important thing which is making the faces look different. Even making the bodies less perfect and be a continuation of the personality is a loss art form. But Mr. Lapham delivers on that front too. Even the facial expressions are at par with Terry Morre; you feel the characters.
I've read comic books for almost twenty years and to this day this series is the pinnacle of inter-woven, complex, real story telling. This series has been complete/finished for over six years now, but it still holds it's own in today's market. Currently there are eight volumes reprinting issues #1-32. If you want a nice change from the over-populated super hero genre, if you want a solid story, good clean art, and enough surprises to make Keyser Söze look twice, this book is for you.
Hugh Orr is a contributing writer at Champion City Comics.