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Stray Bullets Vol. 1: Innocence of Nihilism (Stray Bullets (Graphic Novels)) Paperback – April 20, 2005
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From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. This unforgettable epic of lowlife criminals in Baltimore in the 1980s pulls no punches. An obsessed junior gunsel in love with a corpse; an abused little girl who takes refuge in violent fantasies of robbing banks; a lonely woman who picks up a teenage boy; a hit man who looks like Jesus Christ—these are only a few of the indelible characters caught up in Lapham's ultra-violent saga. Jumping in time from 1977 to 1997, the seven stories in this book are interrelated in subtle ways. Joey, the murderous youth from the first story, appears in another piece, set 17 years earlier, as a boy walking in on his mother having sex with a random guy at a party. Ginny Applejack, in a sad tale of child abuse, is transmogrified into Amy Racecar, a nihilistic antiheroine who is Bonnie and Clyde rolled into one. Lapham's heartbreaking yet detached stories show how petty criminals delude themselves into thinking they're just one score away from leaving it all behind. But even the most sympathetic characters can't break free, like Led, a young punk who finds true love at a wild party and thinks nothing of robbing a liquor store when the party runs out of beer. Lapham's fluid, keenly observed art elevates even the melodramatic moments into stunning instants of shattering truths and savage consequences. (Mar.)
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Top Customer Reviews
A flat tire in the middle of the night can cause all kinds of problems when you need to move a dead body to get at the spare. One thing leads to another and pretty soon there's a killing spree. It's hard to put the blame all on one person but the dim-witted guy would get most of it. The strange thing is (as you might guess from the title), "The Look of Love" turns out to be a very warped love story. "Victimology," about a little girl whose life changes for the worse after she witnesses a crime, is promising for awhile but leads to a ho-hum ending.
"The Party" is a cool story about a bunch of petty criminals who all seem to work for, and fear, a guy named Harry. They manage to mess up pretty much every crime they commit, causing generalized mayhem in the process. The ensemble cast is carefully developed. The story ends abruptly but it's engrossing. If it had an actual ending, it would make a good movie.
"Bonnie and Clyde" is a weak story of misdirection that, at least initially, appears to be about a child molester. The art is great; the story falls flat.
A much better story is "Backin Up the Truck," about a boy, just turning 18, who meets a cougarish older woman at the same time he witnesses a guy being run over by a truck. All of those events come together to change his life. She throws him a birthday party and who should show up but ... the same thugs from "The Party."
In the funniest story, "How I Spent My Summer Vacation," a girl in a coma is hooked up to a Truth Machine and tells the truth about God which, of course, nobody wants to hear. The final entry, "Freedom!," about a young girl dealing with a tragic event, is a complete departure from the others but it is the most moving story in the book.
The art, like the writing, is detailed and imaginative. On the whole, despite a couple of minor missteps that are easily overlooked, this is an excellent example of graphic storytelling.
Toward the end of the book, there is a freestanding story about super-criminal Amy Racecar and I admit that I didn't understand that Amy is a story within the story and is meant to be a character created by the little girl, Virginia Applejack. Amy's gleeful, over-the-top violence comes at exactly the right time and is a bit of a respite before the reader has to deal with the sadness of the last chapter (I don't think it's a spoiler to say this one doesn't have a happy ending).
If you enjoy crime comics, I strongly recommend you check out Stray Bullets. It's deservedly an Eisner winner and the real crime (sorry; bad word play) is that there aren't more reviews of it--I think it's just that it's an older title. It's got some substance to it, though, and I think it would bear a re-read, if I could subject myself to those sad, grisly scenes again. That's not meant to be faint praise but I can't really gush about a comic that heavily and effectively features a little girl who suffers a massive amount of trauma. Which doesn't mean you shouldn't read it; it's really good. But you will not be throwing this in your beach bag with the Lumberjanes.
The stories take place over a variety of years and a few of them are linked. From low lifes sent out to bury bodies, to an innocent young girl who's life is changed when she witnesses a murder. Things take place at a crazy party where a bright young man gets in with the wrong crowd. There is even a story about Amy Racecar, notorious bank robber and tall tale spinner.
The characters are memorable, even when they are less than savory. The art is black and white, but really good. I liked 'Murder Me Dead' for it's noir quality, and I like this one for it's similarities to the movie Pulp Fiction by Quentin Tarantino. I think it's a fair comparison and a compliment to the author. Gritty and enjoyable.
I received a review copy of this graphic novel from Diamond Book Distributors, Image Comics and NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Thank you for allowing me to review this great graphic novel.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
There’s a fair amount of violence, some of it mindless.Read more