After last month’s Stray Bullets: Killers interlude into an Amy Racecar’d-up version of the events in this first story arc, we’re back in the “real” world with Virginia Applejack and Eli, and things are starting to get pretty heavy. Luckily, none of this involves the violence the series title would connote, but more the real human interactions for which we know and love Lapham. You ever have that feeling that the more you try, the further you fall? All you can do is fuck things up and all you want to do is help? Welcome to Virginia Applejack’s life. She wants to make amends with a man she tormented as a child because he’s her boyfriend’s artist mentor; instead, her boyfriend’s douchebag cousin gives her a roofie and the artist assumes that she’s still a shitty person because she’s been drugged. This series has always been a grotesque comedy of errors, but it rarely makes you feel more keenly for the people in that world than it does for Virginia Applejack.
Issues like this one bring to the forefront what a superior draftsman Lapham really is. He presents to us this series, set in rural Baltimore where things rarely happen that are outside the realm of belief; there’s some intense violence and some over-the-top characters, but it never stretches our suspension of disbelief. It almost seems pedestrian. And then, you get a reveal such as in this issue where he’s drawn a room filled to the brim with miniature ships (basically ships in a bottle, minus the bottle). Each one has detailed sails, wooden siding, rigging, stands. They’re in various states of completion. It’s a panel that would take a less skilled person the entire month to do, and they’d still end up leaving some of the boats unfinished. Not Lapham. He pays attention to the things that are important to his characters and he makes us as the readers sit up and take notice without ever forcing it down our throats. If there’s one person who has mastered the art of show, don’t tell in a visual medium, it’s him.
My only complaint with the series at this point is that it feels like we’re at a high water mark where things are about to happen, and it’s felt that way for several issues now. And make no mistake, things do happen. Characters change and learn and make mistakes in each issue, so it never feels like it’s merely treading its wheels, but it does feel like something needs to happen. If Virginia Applejack is going to spend this much time in this issue talking about how every time she visits her aunt, someone close to her dies... isn’t it about time for someone to bite it?
Basically, this is the best book on the shelf the week it comes out, pretty much every time. It’s taut, it’s got phenomenal character work, and the art is deceptively masterful. If you’re not picking it up eagerly every month, I don’t know what’s wrong with you and it’s possible that you might have a medical condition, and you should seek professional help. Or alternately, just buy the damn book already.
Writer/Artist/Creator: David Lapham Publisher: Image/El Capitan Price: $3.50 Release Date: 8/20/14 Format: Print/Digital