Lodger (2018) #2

The Lodger  2018  2

I may have already read this issue of Lodger. I thought I’d only read (and mostly forgotten) the first issue, but this one seems very familiar. Going into it without having read the first issue recently and not really remembering the setup—it’s about some white guy named Dante who travels around causing trouble without people realizing it while he does his travel blog and then some white girl who’s chasing him down because he did something to her. Can’t remember if he did it in the first issue or if it’s going to be a reveal later on in the series. It’s not in this issue.

I also don’t know how Lodger would read if you were unfamiliar with David Lapham, co-writer (with Maria Lapham) and artist. There’s no way there’s not some creepy thing going on with the Dante guy even if he weren’t blogging about how he happened onto a serial killer—even though it’s fairly clear he’s the serial killer who’s framing the other guy—and perving on a teenage girl. The Lodger is just a Stray Bullets remix. It could even be a spin-off, though apparently not at IDW and Black Crown (Stray Bullets is at Image, at least as of this issue’s publication based on the house ad). So it’s hard to get too invested in any of the characters. The teenage girl, Ricky, is a victim, whether she knows it or not, the reader knows it. Her mom is a victim. Her dad is a victim. And so on and so on.

The issue starts a little weak on art—Lapham’s very inky style doesn’t work well in extreme closeup but does great with medium shots in small panels—but it’s fine. For what it is, it’s fine. Is there any reason to keep going on it? Did I keep going on it before? I never wrote about it, but there’s a long stretch where comics only went on the Comics Fondle podcast versus blog responses. But I don’t even remember talking about it. I just remember reading it and thinking… oh, Lapham’s doing the teenage girl victim in danger thing. Again.

It’s kind of his genre.

New Comics Wednesday

I got four.

Had lunch with a friend recently and afterwards went to a comic store with him. While nothing hit me on the the mainstream rack, the indies had me curious. So here, in no particular order, and possibly not as new as “this weeks long underwear books”, is a smattering of what caught my eye, and got me to purchase them.

Pope Hats #4,5– when I got home, I discovered I had issue 4 in my “stack”, so I read ‘em both. Hartley Lin, current master of short stories about everyday people with issues, goes with an anthology style of shorts in 4 with good results. A half a dozen quick narratives are the stomping ground, with a huge swath of characters and some poignant conclusions on them. While each has a distinctness of it’s own, it s in issue 5 where Lin lets his inner talents loose with a lengthy 60 page story all about his well realized Frances, a young lady who’s watched her bff/roomie move away for work, and now deals pretty much alone with her position as a law clerk at a huge firm. While I could say it’s a more complicated version of Betty and Veronica, the love he has for the fate of Frances is more than communicated with a warm, formal, cartooning style that nearly brought me to tears here more than once. I now love Frances, I just can’t help myself.

Black Hammer-Age of Doom #8– while I picked up this middle issue cold, I was still familiar enough with the concept and the group here enough to catch on to the endless reboot theme thats underlying here. While there’s not terribly much meat on this comic, Dean Ormstrom’s art carries it, along with just enough willingness on my behalf for patience to see where Jeff LeMire is going with this. On the edge of teetering from it’s own weighty premises, Black Hammer gives something for those too crazy or stupid to give up on superhero comics.

House Amok #5 – one of those favorite Vertigo replacement series from Black Crown, Chris Sebela manages to take a fast paced crazy family story with likable characters and just about kill all the momentum he built in the first four issues. Not the ending I wanted, but Shawn McManus’ great cartooning helps digesting this mess immensely. Decent first four issues, though, the train wreck that composes issue 5 kills it.

Lodger #2 – Another Black Crown book, noir styled authors Maria and David Lapham relate a story here about a nomadish guy that gets involved with certain peoples lives, mostly for a bad ending for them. Lapham’s experience with down trodden folks and a love for depicting real violence give this one a convincing tone, and makes me curious for another.

All in all, not bad. Makes me want to try it again sometime. The threat of walking into a comic series cold was balanced by enough talent, and for the exception of Black Hammer, the ability to read a copy of something and get a warm fuzzy feeling while experiencing comics again, enjoying the random issues.

Juice Squeezers (December 2013)

Juice Squeezers

David Lapham takes a really interesting approach with this first Juice Squeezers one-shot. He doesn't try to do too much. He opens the comic with new Juice Squeezer, Lizzy Beedle. She's the only girl on the team of high school students who kill all those giant bugs the world doesn't know about. He changes points of view quite a bit, but it's always Lizzy who's at the center of the character stuff.

Then there's the way the kids go out and hunt the bugs. It's simultaneously scary and safe, with Lapham skipping from character to character. He doesn't go too far establishing any of the other characters, usually just giving them distinct names and personalities, but not entire scenes to themselves. He doesn't want to lose the focus.

The conclusion nicely ties up this introduction issue while keeping things open.

Great art too. The movement is outstanding, the bugs creepy.

A 

CREDITS

Squish; writer and artist, David Lapham; colorist, Lee Loughridge; letterer, Nate Piekos; editor, Jim Gibbons; publisher, Dark Horse Comics.

Stray Bullets: Killers 6 (August 2014)

Stray Bullets: Killers #6

Well, it’s far from the worst issue of Killers. It’s more with Virginia and her mostly lame boyfriend Eli; Lapham does very little to show why Eli’s any good as a boyfriend other than he’s usually sweet to Virginia.

This issue has him not being sweet for the first time and it’s an awkward scene. Usually outburst scenes in Stray Bullets lead to some kind of murder scene. This time it leads to teenage angst.

It’s also one of the first issues–Killers or regular series–where something turns out not to be the worst possible scenario. Except maybe some of those early Virginia issues where Lapham frequently threatens her to keep the tension high. It’s a Stray Bullets comic without the big finish. Very odd.

The art’s really lazy at times; Lapham rushes through the talking heads sequences and it hurts the comic. Ditto the narratively pointless hallucination subplot.

B- 

CREDITS

99 Percent; writer, artist and letterer, David Lapham; editors, Renee Miller and Maria Lapham; publisher, Image Comics.

Stray Bullets: Killers 5 (July 2014)

Stray Bullets: Killers #5

I remember when the Amy Racecar issues of Stray Bullets were wildly imaginative, wonderfully constructed black comedy. This issue, the first Killers issue to bring Amy back… is none of those things. Instead, it’s Lapham doing the “Amy Racecar as painfully obvious analog to Virginia’s life” approach.

It’s depressing–not because of the content, but because Lapham jumps all over the place to tie in to the original series (both the Amy issues and a little not) and to the Killers series. While one could argue the unanswered questions in the Amy Racecar stories are because Virginia herself doesn’t know the answers but it’s possible she’s dwelling on these subjects so they’re okay in the issue, I don’t think so.

Lapham wants this story to inform the rest of the work, not do anything else whatsoever. Not even make the reader laugh or cringe. The vague hints barely register a shrug.

C- 

CREDITS

Call Me Gilgamesh or The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face It Was On Your Butt; writer, artist and letterer, David Lapham; editors, Renee Miller and Maria Lapham; publisher, Image Comics.

Stray Bullets: Killers 4 (June 2014)

Stray Bullets: Killers #4

It's all connected! It's all connected! And why shouldn't Virginia Applejack fall for the kid from the first issue of Killers once he's grown up? It makes everything so neat and tidy, even if Lapham does skip over the actual romance because it'd be too hard to establish it. And even if Lapham does turn the guy's mom into a shrill knock-off of Virginia's evil mom.

There's still a lot of good stuff in the comic, maybe even some great stuff; the connections almost seem added later. Lapham really tries hard to make Killers, save Virginia, its own interconnected thing.

Why?

Because he still hasn't realized interconnected stories don't necessarily make something good.

It's a fine issue, but more of what I expected from Killers than Lapham has been doing. Until now, the nostalgia has been subtle. Here, it's forced. It's still above average until the desperate third act.

B 

CREDITS

Sorry; writer, artist and letterer, David Lapham; editors, Renee Miller and Maria Lapham; publisher, Image Comics.

Stray Bullets 41 (March 2014)

Stray Bullets #41

This issue is about eight years late. Maybe eight years and a month.

Is it the comic Lapham always intended to tell? Who knows. Who cares.

It ends with Virginia okay and heading out into the world because she can’t lead a regular life. I don’t care if I spoiled it. I won’t spoil how the whole kidnapping thing comes to a conclusion because it’s not worth talking about. Lapham has his chance a few times in that scene to do something good and he doesn’t.

But at the end, and here’s another spoiler, Virginia gets it on with Leon. She loves the kid, he loves her. Lapham’s spent this series showing women getting beaten, raped, murdered. It’s the first time there’s some romantic love in this comic in many issues and more years.

And he skips it.

He tries some earnest sentimentality at the end, but he’s faking it.

D+ 

CREDITS

Hi-Jinks!; writer, artist, and letterer, David Lapham; editor, Maria Lapham; publisher, Image Comics.

Stray Bullets 40 (October 2005)

Stray Bullets #40

This issue is the story of Kevin’s father. Kevin is the bad guy who has kidnapped Virginia with badder guy Huss.

Kevin’s dad is deaf and he’s a drunk because a low level mobster took off one of his fingers and he can’t hear his kid trying to gang rape a teenage girl. Lapham’s aiming for the stars here as far as artistic ambition.

Oddly, he clearly thinks it’s a great idea–the storytelling device with the deaf guy moving in front of all this action and not being aware of it. But the art’s crap, so it’s not like he worked on it.

Lapham also thinks it’s a good idea to reduce a character who was once one of the best female comic book characters to a mannequin who’s single purpose to be exploited. Apparently, Lapham can’t do anything else with Bullets but assault, rape or molest Virginia.

It’s repugnant.

F 

CREDITS

Zippity Doo-Dah!; writer, artist, and letterer, David Lapham; editors, Renee Miller and Maria Lapham; publisher, El Capitán Books.

Stray Bullets 39 (September 2005)

Silly me, how did I forget Lapham always follows up hard cliffhangers with Amy Racecar stories. Sadly, not even Amy Racecar is safe from Lapham’s laziness.

It isn’t a story about Amy–her sidekick, William, returns, because apparently Virginia and Amy both always need sidekicks now. She doesn’t narrate, which is good, because it’s a terrible story and I wouldn’t have wanted to read Lapham write bad Amy Racecar narration. It would have made me sadder.

The issue has her in feudal Japan because someone–probably Lapham, not Virginia–was on a Kurosawa kick. Lots of visual references to some of Kurosawa’s most famous samurai movies. Not to mention a direct homage to Yojimbo. It’s too bad Lapham didn’t spend the time on the actual content of this issue.

Also, there are a lot of bad puns.

Lapham’s awful output’s confusing. He’s not trying with story or art; it’s terrible.

D- 

CREDITS

Hatukaraki!!!!; writer, artist, and letterer, David Lapham; editors, Renee Miller and Maria Lapham; publisher, El Capitán Books.

Stray Bullets 38 (May 2005)

Stray Bullets #38

Seriously? Seriously? Okay, so the bad guy who’s secretly gay and can’t accept it so he rapes other guys is named Huss. He’s the villain. I wonder why Lapham wanted to do this story arc. Bullets always had some kind of point, the way it revolved around a certain group of criminals. And then Virginia’s story too, of course.

But Lapham has now set Virginia up as a superhero against this villain kid. There’s no attempt at understanding this kid, which is strange since Lapham was always sympathetic to the kid who shot up the first issue. One might have thought Bullets would be about him and Virginia.

Instead of Virginia coming up against villains to defeat. Ones who are number one murder suspects who then just get away with it.

I think the art is a little better than last issue but not by much.

Lousy hard cliffhanger too.

D 

CREDITS

Poppycock; writer, artist, and letterer, David Lapham; editors, Renee Miller and Maria Lapham; publisher, El Capitán Books.

Stray Bullets 37 (March 2005)

Stray Bullets #37

Okay, so the high school arc is apparently all about Virginia going up against that kid who went insane because he had a gay encounter. Actually, it’s rather homophobic. Not just that event and the outcome, but the series overall. This issue has the guy raping another kid (another guy).

Lapham’s nothing if he isn’t cheap. And vaguely homophobic. And really lazy on the art. It’s the worst art in the series ever.

But he’s also got Virginia stirring the pot and investigating and it’s hard not to appreciate having her around. Even if all the high school stuff is idiotic and somehow getting worse. This Bullets arc is set in the early eighties so maybe you didn’t go to jail as a teenager if you murdered someone, which is the implication with the villain.

And why does the comic now have (another) shallow villain? Because Lapham’s given up entirely.

C 

CREDITS

Fiddlesticks; writer, artist, and letterer, David Lapham; editors, Renee Miller and Maria Lapham; publisher, El Capitán Books.

Stray Bullets 36 (January 2005)

Stray Bullets #36

Some of Lapham’s problem is the lack of restraint. He’s let Bullets go all over the place, he’s let his art go to pot and he’s gone too far. Maybe he hyper-extended his narrative muscles too many times and they’re just damaged.

This issue has Virginia bonding with her awful mother’s new boyfriend, who’s not a good boyfriend but isn’t a terrible guy. And there’s some stuff with her sister. If it had been the first in the “Virginia goes home” arc, it might have been a little better because some of it wouldn’t seem so forced, like the Leon references.

Oh, right–Lapham does it all from Virginia’s diary. Just like he used to do when the comic was frequently fantastic. It hasn’t even been good lately and the return to the device seems a tad desperate.

At least this time, Virginia carries the issue to moderate success.

B- 

CREDITS

Monkey Business; writer, artist, and letterer, David Lapham; editors, Renee Miller and Maria Lapham; publisher, El Capitán Books.

Stray Bullets 35 (October 2004)

Stray Bullets #35

Lapham is really enjoying his high school arc. It’s not as violent anymore because of Virginia getting the cops involved with the brawl. Or so Leon, who’s around to explain everything to Virginia because she’s become a caricature, says.

Leon and Virginia sit around and comment on the events in the issue, a jock-related love triangle. Because everyone reading Stray Bullets wants to read a misanthropic, X-rated version of “Friday Night Lights.” It should be better, for Lapham to take the traditional lionizing of high school athletes and show the realistic side of it but… it’s not. It’s terrible. It’s a dumb idea for a story and Lapham is incompetent at executing it.

From the first couple pages, I could tell he was slacking on the art and I kept hoping he wouldn’t slack on the writing too. I kept waiting for a point. There isn’t any point.

D- 

CREDITS

Bamboozled; writer, artist, and letterer, David Lapham; editors, Renee Miller and Maria Lapham; publisher, El Capitán Books.

Stray Bullets 34 (June 2004)

Stray Bullets #34

And here we have the issue where a couple drunk male friends fool around and it doesn’t just ruin their friendship, one of them goes insane and kills the other one.

Guess Lapham liked American Beauty too. The trope wasn’t original in that movie either.

There’s no context for the story. The guys are a couple jerks, so it’s not like Lapham creates much sympathy for their psychological distress. In some ways, Bullets is at its best with the done-in-ones, even the terrible ones like this issue. Because then Lapham’s failings are disposable. It’s a bad issue, not a bad arc.

The art is a little bit better than it has been lately. A little. Lapham is still dragging out his action scenes and his attempt at a haunting finale is a joke. But the art’s a little better.

The comic reads fast. At least it reads fast.

D 

CREDITS

Higily-Pigily; writer, artist, and letterer, David Lapham; editor, Renee Miller; publisher, El Capitán Books.

Stray Bullets 33 (May 2004)

Stray Bullets #33

Here’s another example of Lapham slacking off. And it’s on a Virginia issue too, which is upsetting because he usually treats her better.

It’s in high school, with Virginia setting off the jocks against the greasers. Because Grease, right? I don’t know what else to say about it, actually. I mean, aside from the fighting, there are a lot of lengthy action montages–who knew throwing rocks at a window was worth a page–and not much else. Lapham is back to treating the comic like a parody of itself. Virginia is the superhero.

The most annoying part has to be the appearance from her mother. Lapham’s totally ignored Virginia’s home life. At this point it seems like he’s too cowardly to do it. Instead he just has the high school where kids are allowed to castrate each other.

But seriously, his lame handling of Virginia post-kidnapping is unforgivable.

D 

CREDITS

Donnybrook; writer, artist, and letterer, David Lapham; editor, Renee Miller; publisher, El Capitán Books.

Stray Bullets 32 (May 2003)

Stray Bullets #32

Lapham hasn’t just run out of ideas, he’s now doing reruns. This issue of Stray Bullets reminds of a few others, but in bits and pieces. So less a rerun, I guess, and more a remix.

Some classmates of Virginia–who also remember her before she ran away (in a school district with so much assault going on, wouldn’t there be a lot of runaways and not just one)–are goofing off while waiting in a parking lot and they piss off the wrong guy.

This wrong guy works for the unseen criminal boss Harry.

The guy spends the rest of the issue torturing the kid who heckled him from the car window. There’s actually a chance for Lapham to do something with it at the end and he doesn’t. He goes the safe route, the Stray Bullets route. The comic’s practically a parody of itself.

Loose art too.

D 

CREDITS

Shenanigans; writer, artist, and letterer, David Lapham; editor, Karen Hoyt; publisher, El Capitán Books.

Stray Bullets 31 (April 2003)

Stray Bullets #31

Lapham does some really tight art this issue. I don’t think his figures have ever been so precise. It’s a shame the story’s not there.

This issue has Virginia returning home and, once home, she runs into some kid she had a conversation with during her first issue. Is it too much synergy? Yes, it is too much synergy. But given the comic also has her at a high school where the kids attempt murder on two or three times a day and there’s no accountability–these are incidents where police reports would definitely be filed–too much synergy is the least of the problems.

It’s like Lapham is trying to do a high school story with that “Stray Bullets flavor” and it comes off like a cheap imitation.

As usual, he doesn’t cheap out on Virginia the character and she can hold the comic, regardless of its problems. Not ideal, but….

B- 

CREDITS

Derring-Do; writer, artist, and letterer, David Lapham; editor, Karen Hoyt; publisher, El Capitán Books.

Stray Bullets 30 (March 2003)

Stray Bullets #30

Here’s the thing I love about Stray Bullets–and it’s been kind of hard to love the comic lately, due to Lapham’s scurry into exploitation (intentionally or not)–even when he’s being cheap, Lapham has created a number of such excellent characters the cheapness can’t hurt the comic.

For instance, this issue is a prequel to the pointless (and exploitative) “kidnapped by a pedophile” arc Lapham is wrapping up. So his last chapter to the arc is a prequel to the arc. It’s a cheap move, because he’s showing the reader who wonderful Bobby and Virginia’s lives were before the bad choices she made to get Bobby kidnapped and abused.

But it doesn’t matter because Bobby and Virginia are both fantastic characters. There’s a whole subplot to the issue involving Bobby working on Amy Racecar comic spin-offs. The issue’s got a fantastic pace, then an amazing, touching finish.

Even if it’s cheap.

B+ 

CREDITS

Happy Ending; writer, artist, and letterer, David Lapham; editor, Deborah Purcell; publisher, El Capitán Books.

Stray Bullets 29 (January 2003)

Stray Bullets #29

Ugh. Really, there’s no other word for it. Ugh. Lapham’s colliding of all his story lines and characters continues with Roger the detective–the one who had such a cool dating issue–hunting down Monster to find Virginia. Only Lapham has always used Monster as a force of nature, so having him go up against very real cops is kind of like a horror movie.

There’s also a bunch of lengthy jail interviews between Roger and Beth. Not to mention all the journals from Virginia while she was being held captive.

Lapham is bad with all of it. Why read Stray Bullets for a cop story? Lapham established the series as startling stories about people who experience violence. Roger’s just doing his job.

Worst is how Lapham just apes his plotting for the Beth investigation comic. It’s painfully uninspired. While not as bad as it could be, it’s still terrible.

D 

CREDITS

The Notebook; writer, artist, and letterer, David Lapham; editor, Deborah Purcell; publisher, El Capitán Books.

Stray Bullets 28 (December 2002)

Stray Bullets #28

Lapham almost brings it back, he really almost does. The comic’s been missing active intelligence from Beth–and Virginia–for quite a while (seriously, Virginia’s been on her own how long and she couldn’t sniff out a pedophile, especially one who looks like Sideshow Bob) but the end of this issue has Virginia come back. It’s fantastic.

There’s a lot of the interconnected nonsense, with Joey and Rose showing up again and reminding of better days. Especially Rose. She’s been one of Lapham’s better characters and he does write her stuff pretty well here. But Joey? He’s annoying. Again. Lapham beats it in like a hammer–remember him being crazy, here’s why.

Anyway, the ending falls off a bit because Lapham goes too long to bring everything together. It could have been a lot better. But it’s far from bad and closer to good.

Even if the art’s really loose.

B- 

CREDITS

The Prize; writer, artist, and letterer, David Lapham; editor, Deborah Purcell; publisher, El Capitán Books.

Stray Bullets 27 (October 2002)

Stray Bullets #27

How does Lapham resolve a story he didn’t have any reason to do? Poorly.

He fractures Beth’s search for Virginia, cutting in scenes in their past, scenes of Beth’s investigation, lots of little cameos from other cast members. And then he turns it into an action movie. The entire issue has a frantic pace, so having a car chase at the end only seems logical. And having an open ending? Well, it’s Stray Bullets after all.

I don’t think I’ve ever said something has jumped the shark before and it’s unclear if this issue signals a downward trend for the series, but it’s a terrible, terrible comic. It’s inept. Lapham takes one of his two best characters and reduces her to a crying mess before building her into Charles Bronson. But a bad Charles Bronson.

The issue’s a bunch of manipulative scenes strung together. Every one of them is pointless.

How does Lapham resolve a story he didn’t have any reason to do? Poorly.

He fractures Beth’s search for Virginia, cutting in scenes in their past, scenes of Beth’s investigation, lots of little cameos from other cast members. And then he turns it into an action movie. The entire issue has a frantic pace, so having a car chase at the end only seems logical. And having an open ending? Well, it’s Stray Bullets after all.

I don’t think I’ve ever said something has jumped the shark before and it’s unclear if this issue signals a downward trend for the series, but it’s a terrible, terrible comic. It’s inept. Lapham takes one of his two best characters and reduces her to a crying mess before building her into Charles Bronson. But a bad Charles Bronson.

The issue’s a bunch of manipulative scenes strung together. Every one of them is pointless.

F 

CREDITS

Broken; writer, artist, and letterer, David Lapham; editor, Deborah Purcell; publisher, El Capitán Books.

Stray Bullets 26 (June 2002)

Stray Bullets #26

And now Lapham just decides to mess with the reader. The story has Amy Racecar–you know, Virginia’s alter ego–kidnapped by a bad guy, along with her male friend. She escapes, leaving the male friend behind. Is Lapham finally going to break from the Amy Racecar stuff into Virginia’s real life, where she’s escaped from the pedophile in the previous issue (Lapham’s worst?). No, no, he’s not.

Speaking of worst–this issue is actually awesome at the end and Lapham really does some great stuff with the Amy character but it’s so cheap. He’s learned how to manipulate the reader with forced machinations. Or maybe he always intended to manipulate the reader and there’s some Stray Bullets story bible out there with all the plans.

It’s doesn’t matter because Lapham’s still produces a great comic here. The manipulation hurts, but Amy Racecar can’t be defeated by cheap narrative tricks. She’s bitching.

A- 

CREDITS

Wild Strawberries Can’t Be Broken or Don’t Blame God Your Dog’s Dead; writer, artist, and letterer, David Lapham; editor, Deborah Dragovic; publisher, El Capitán Books.

Stray Bullets: Killers 3 (May 2014)

Stray Bullets: The Killers #3

It’s another outstanding issue. This one goes a little cute, with Virginia now a babysitter to a mob guy’s bratty kids and searching the house for his missing fortune. Not missing fortune, the money his wife has stashed he now needs. He’s out with the wife. And there’s a mistress in the mix and one of the kids reminds Virginia of herself.

What’s particularly interesting about the issue is how Lapham shows his nostalgia. There are some big nods–with Virginia standing in for Lapham’s nostalgia and the reader’s. Doing a sincere, loving tribute to Stray Bullets should be impossible given the comic’s content, but Lapham does it. He can even use it to get away with logic gaps; he knows the reader is on his side.

There’s some lovely art in the issue too. Lapham’s very careful with the people and especially the sequences with the older daughter and Virginia.

A- 

CREDITS

The Five Fingers; writer, artist and letterer, David Lapham; editors, Renee Miller and Maria Lapham; publisher, Image Comics.

Stray Bullets 25 (April 2002)

Stray Bullets #25

After threatening it since issue five or so, Lapham finally has a pedophile attack Virginia. He appears to be an equal opportunity pedophile because he goes after Virginia’s friend, Bobby, too.

Lapham sets up the issue differently than usual–by usual I mean the usual for when he’s threatening Virginia with rape and possibly murder–and spends the first half of the issue showing her on the run from a truant officer. There’s some better stuff in that part of the issue. The stuff with the creep is weak.

The creep also looks a lot like Sideshow Bob.

It’s a hell of a “promise” to fulfill and not one Lapham really has to do. He’s already shown he’s capable of hinting at it and going another direction, threatening it and going another direction, it’s unclear why–given he uses a hard cliffhanger–he wants to do it now.

Except explotation.

C 

CREDITS

Compulsion; writer, artist, and letterer, David Lapham; editor, Deborah Dragovic; publisher, El Capitán Books.

Stray Bullets 24 (March 2002)

Stray Bullets #24

Sometimes–and this issue is definitely one of those times and in its entirety too–Stray Bullets feels like Lapham hasn’t realized he isn’t doing a Love and Rockets with crime and violence. This issue has Monster in L.A., after Beth and looking for the money and cocaine. Beth has a couple ex-boyfriends there and the girl from a few issues ago who likes breaking up marriages or whatever.

Why are they all together? The “nice girl,” the “nice guy,” the greaser and the strumpet? Because they look interesting together. Maybe all the dark hair reminds of Love and Rockets too. But it’s a talking heads issue where no one has anything to say and the situation isn’t particularly engaging because it’s all supposed to be about making sure Virginia is safe from Monster and Lapham doesn’t resolve it.

He instead apparently does a perfunctory, disappointing resolution to the entire plot line.

C 

CREDITS

Man Or HU-Man; writer, artist, and letterer, David Lapham; editor, Deborah Dragovic; publisher, El Capitán Books.

Stray Bullets 23 (January 2002)

Stray Bullets #23

Lapham is still uneven. He’s trying too hard. This issue has the reveal Spanish Scott is Rose’s brother, which no doubt Lapham also had set up–it makes things make sense (her and Joey being around)–and it’s got a bunch of stuff with Joey getting traumatized. Joey grows up to be the guy who goes berserk in the first issue.

See how it all connects? Who cares. Lapham should have gone in and taken out the reveals and put the comic out. The texture would all be there without the painful exposition.

And this issue has some really good stuff. Scott and the kid, Scott and Rose, Scott and the kid’s babysitter. Great dialogue, great narrative flow. But then the ending goes too far to traumatize Joey. If the comic were somehow centered around this character and the first issue’s events, maybe, but it isn’t.

Lapham’s attention is erratic.

B- 

CREDITS

The Secret Box; writer, artist, and letterer, David Lapham; editor, Deborah Dragovic; publisher, El Capitán Books.

Stray Bullets 22 (September 2000)

Stray Bullets #22

Lapham’s floundering. He finally brings Beth back, but now she’s in LA and Virginia is nowhere to be seen. She’s getting drunk at a bar and some married guy tries to pick up on her. Of course, she’s not the protagonist of the issue, it’s the married guy. His wife’s out of town and he’s trying desperately for female company.

Everything in the comic is forced. Someone Lapham has misplaced his ability to get sympathy for the dregs of humanity; about the only time there’s any life in the issue is when Beth’s life is threatened. Not because she might die, but because she’s been a regular cast member for so long. Her death would be interesting as it relates to the narrative, not as a loss of a character.

It’s a shame; she’s been one of Lapham’s strongest creations.

The art’s got some energy and it does read fast.

C 

CREDITS

Bring Home the Devil; writer, artist, and letterer, David Lapham; editor, Deborah Dragovic; publisher, El Capitán Books.

Stray Bullets 21 (April 2000)

Stray Bullets #21

Maybe, instead of actually putting the money into publishing this issue, Lapham should have sat down and thought about a different one. A non-imaginary one. Because an imaginary story breaks the series. It means Lapham doesn’t have to play fair–and he doesn’t here. (I’m not talking about Amy Racecar, which has a context).

This issue takes a character and breaks him into pieces. Lapham props up the villain of the story and twists him into a hero. It’s all a big joke and it’s a complete waste of the reader’s time. It’s predictable, manipulative and unimaginative. It also shows how Lapham has established the series as one where the fantastic seems possible, which isn’t necessarily a good thing.

It makes him an untrustworthy writer, especially given it’s a periodical.

The rushed art doesn’t do the issue any favors either.

I’m shocked at the poor quality of this one.

D 

CREDITS

Little Love Tragedy; writer, artist, and letterer, David Lapham; editor, Deborah Dragovic; publisher, El Capitán Books.

Stray Bullets 20 (July 1999)

Stray Bullets #20

Odd theme Lapham’s developing now–cruel women. This issue has a coed having an affair with her professor and she calls the wife during their lovemaking. It partially redeems the unfaithful husband, who seems weak instead of cruel himself. How else would he have fallen in with such a girl.

Then Monster shows up for an incredibly contrived reason–the mystery big boss needs something in code translated and the professor is the guy for it–and Lapham does a very lengthy action and suspense sequence.

There’s some really good art during that sequence. It’s set in a motel in the woods and the absence of anything but trees around it plays quite well on the page.

The writing on the professor and his wife are good, but the thing with the coed isn’t just shallow, it’s simplistic. Unfortunately, Lapham can’t imagine her situation, just her dialogue.

It’s too bad.

B 

CREDITS

Motel; writer, artist, and letterer, David Lapham; editor, Deborah Dragovic; publisher, El Capitán Books.

Stray Bullets 19 (April 1999)

Stray Bullets #19

This issue might be Lapham’s most difficult to pull off, because he’s not just charting the decline of a previously sympathetic protagonist, he’s charting the decline of new, female character. He’s got to do it very, very carefully.

The story is about a young woman who a couple lousy boyfriends who starts seducing married men (for the rush). The couple lousy boyfriends are really lousy, one even abusive, and Lapham doesn’t handle her reaction sensationally. He does it calmly (when he really could have her start killing her lovers or blackmailing them or something). So it’s depressing. Well, at first it seems like it might not be as depressing, then he clarifies she knows exactly what she’s doing.

Maybe it’s all the build up cop Roger, who’s the only returning character, and the only one to stand up to her.

It probably could be longer, maybe doubled, but it’s good.

A-

CREDITS

Live Nude Girls!; writer, artist, and letterer, David Lapham; editor, Deborah Dragovic; publisher, El Capitán Books.

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