Nick’s initial thought upon seeing the cover of Stray Bullets: Killers 3: “Aw hellz yeah, the Finger Man is back. He’s totally rad.” (Since reading last month’s issue, I’ve finally caught up on the main series of Stray Bullets, so now I know who this guy is. It’s been a continuity nightmare in my head.) Nick’s thought at the end of this issue: “Dude, Virginia Applejack is just the OG, baddest-ass-bitch that’s ever going to be in a comic, and Finger Man can go screw.” This issue is far from action packed, and there actually isn’t even any on-screen action (there’s mostly strenuous babysitting), but it’s still an incredibly readable issue that, if you didn’t like Virginia Applejack before, you damn well will now.
The tough part about critiquing a Stray Bullets book is that it’s hard to figure out where Lapham is taking you in his story. He’s got this preternatural grasp of episodic storytelling, where every single issue tells a complete and satisfying tale, but when you take them together in groups of five or so, they’re also a rich arc. These small building blocks turn into an operatic tragedy, he just likes to take his sweet-ass time. He likes to pick up the threads at their extreme beginnings and follow them slowly to where they all meet. In that vein, Stray Bullets: Killers #3 is the same, telling a complete, compelling story in 30 pages, with good stakes and a great dramatic question. It just doesn’t really feel like a mini-series, it feels like a regular issue of Stray Bullets.
I suppose where SB: K takes the series is that each issue focuses on one separate person in Virginia’s life, and I’d like to think that at the end, they will all meet, all the threads will come together and, to continue that metaphor, it will either be a very neat braid or it will be a Gordian knot with only one solution. Will that happen? Who knows, but I’m in for a penny, in for a pound on this series.
An aside: what really continues to impress me about Stray Bullets in general and Killers especially is that what we have is this neo-noir crime series, about mobsters and criminals, perverts, rapists, killers, pick your poison, and the hero isn’t some plucky twenty-something dude, it’s a teenage girl. Like, the amount of times that this book passes the Bechdel/Sexy Lamp test is staggering, and it still continues to be probably the best crime book on the shelves, and definitely in the top five of all books in general. So just, in general, I wanted to give those props to Lapham for giving the world a top-notch badass who rolls with the punches with a smile, and she’s 14 and a girl. Comics need more of that.
My only beef with this issue isn’t even really an issue in retrospect. Finger Man’s daughter shows up in this issue, and she’s the angsty teen with a full ashtray, trying to burn herself on a cigarette lighter even though she’s afraid to get burned (it’s a metaphor). She’s just unbearably douchey to Ginny, but she’s also a teenager. Thinking back to my own time in those awkward, hairy, inexplicably sweaty years, it’s not far off; it turns out I’m just infuriated by youths in general. So what was a beef while reading is actually more of a kudos after. Congrats, Lapham, you can write teenage bastards with the best of ‘em.
I don’t know how many more issues of Killers there are slated to be; I was under the impression it was going to be a limited, but I haven’t heard any more about that. Regardless, it’s a great series. It doesn’t quite have its own identity outside of the main book yet, but if it’s more of the same Stray Bullets... is that really a bad thing?
Writer/Artist/Creator: David Lapham Publisher: Image/El Capitan Price: $3.50 Release Date: 5/14/14 Format: Mini-Series, Print/Digital