Friday, June 08, 2007

The Last Strangers In Paradise

When is the last time that a comic book made you cry? No, I don't mean because it had Rob Liefeld art or was printed with those crappy water-based inks DC used briefly in the 1980's. I mean when did a comic book last emotionally affect you and bring you to tears? In my case, the answer was this morning when I had a chance to read the final issue of Terry Moore's STRANGERS IN PARADISE. Now here's the thing. I've been following it in the thick pocket book reprint editions of which the latest is about a year late I believe. Thus, when I approached issue 90 today, I was missing quite a bit of information from recent issues. Such is what happened to David? Where was Freddy? And what happened to statements I seem to recall from Moore indicating that his two main characters, Francine and Katchoo, were destined to remain star-crossed lovers forever? That last is the important point here because (SPOILER ALERT!) this is a happy ending!

Throughout the run of SIP, fans have seen more bizarre turns of events than in a decade's worth of mainstream comics. Katchoo loves Francine, Francine loves Freddy, David loves Katchoo, Katchoo is an international assassin who stole millions of dollars, Freddy marries Casey, David finds religion, etc., etc.

There's blood--lots of it--and violence that makes a PUNISHER comic look tame. At the heart of STRANGERS is love and surprisingly, in this final issue, the violence is all gone and the love wins out at last! There's so much positive stuff here that in any other hands it would come across as cliched. As it is, however, everything here is a well-deserved coda to the trials the leads have had to endure throughout the fifteen or so year run of the series.

In the STRANGERS IN PARADISE TREASURY EDITION of a few years back (which is where I discovered the series), Moore writes, ",more than ever, we need stories about love and hope, tender mercies and promises fulfilled." In this final visit with these oh-so-real characters, he does indeed fulfill promises.

Moore treats it like a movie, complete with cinematic takes, his trademark facial expressions and sense of humor, great snow scenes and "camera work," closing credits and even a particularly satisfying post-credits sequence. No matter what your feelings on homosexuality, it has long since been proven obvious that Francine and Katchoo were soulmates and fans were frustrated over and over when fate conspired to keep them apart. Thanks to their creator, they finally get to live happily ever after. I'll miss STRANGERS IN PARADISE but I hope it never comes back. Sometimes, an ending is just perfect. Just perfect. Thank you, Katchoo, Francine...and especially you Mister Moore! Sniff!

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