Stray Bullets: Killers #2 is the most devastating comic you’ll read this month, even counting Invincible #110. David Lapham has perfected the art of luring you into a quaint slice of life, something that could happen to anyone, letting you into these peoples’ lives and then doing the worst possible thing to them. This issue felt like where the series could have started, if they so chose. We saw the backstory of Eli in the issue previous to this, but this feels like the beginning of the actual story, tying it for sure into the main Stray Bullets story. Virginia Applejack is still on the run, and Eli is another stop on the journey. I don’t begrudge the first issue, but a lot of what happens feels like it gets covered again in this issue, which eats up a couple of pages. It doesn’t feel repetitive per se, but in retrospect, it makes the first issue feel... extraneous. Does that make the first issue actually extraneous? I can’t say at this point, but I trust Lapham to bring us back around to where we started with Eli’s home life and make it all tie together.
What I’m tracking in this series has become less about whether the established killers from the main series can continue to be a presence in these peoples’ lives and more about what defines a “killer” and who can actually be one. This issue seems to say that the answer is that literally anyone can be a killer. I find that extremely fascinating, and it’s one reason I’ll be sticking with this miniseries until the end, to see all the ways that people can end each others’ lives. In the last issue, it was very much about the deliberate ending of life by people who have proven themselves to be dangerous. In this issue, Lapham takes the people we think we can trust, the innocents, and makes them into the dangerous people that we should be afraid of. Isn’t that the way of life, after all? Sometimes the people who are the most damaging to us are the ones we want so badly to be able to trust.
Lapham’s major artistic statement has always been, “people are dangerous.” All the people you meet have dark secrets, they can hurt anyone if they so choose, and sometimes, they choose to. It’s what I think the eponymous stray bullets refer to; these people who shouldn’t be that dangerous, who aren’t aimed in a specific direction, but they can still maim or take a life. In Killers, he’s distilled that artistic statement, and it’s becoming a great way to hop into the greater thesis of the series.
The art in this issue is strong, but it feels more empty than normal. It doesn’t feel like Lapham finished crossing all his t’s and dotting his i’s, as it were. It still solid art, but it isn’t quite the top notch that we’re used to. I really can’t say anything more detailed than that... maybe he’s not filling in his inking as much as he used to? Who’s to say.
This miniseries promises to be a classic, and if you’re not reading it yet, it’s not too late to jump on. And I’m begging you: jump on.
Writer/Artist/Creator: David Lapham Publisher: Image/El Capitan Price: $3.50 Release Date: 4/16/14 Format: Mini-Series, Print/Digital