The fourteenth Strangers in Paradise trade paperback relates the life of David Qin up to his meeting with Katchoo in the first issue. This story of teenage thugs and the quest for redemption constitutes one of the tightest SiP narratives, a welcome change after the meandering of Flower to Flame. Along the way, Terry Moore resolves a number of conundrums and contradictions. Some of these Moore intended, while others he acknowledges were errors. Chief among the mistakes is David Qin's obviously Chinese name; Moore always intended the character to be Japanese-American. Early in the series, he indicated that the character, born Yousaka Takahashi, changed his name, though he did not explain why.1
This story, in fact, begins with the fatal beating of David Qin. His killer? Yousaka Takahasi.
David’s Story (#61-63 of the third series)
Author: Terry Moore.
This trade paperback also features some sketchwork and facts related to the David Qin character.
Some spoilers follow
After murdering the original David Qin, teenaged gangster Yousaka Takahashi seeks redemption and, a year later, converts to Christianity and takes on the dead boy’s identity. His sister Darcy, meanwhile, marries a wealthy man and uses her money and influence to carve a unique position for herself in the underworld. David’s Story gives us David’s background, the origins of the Parker Girls, and an early look at Veronica, a key character in certain story arcs. We also learn the truth behind allegations of incest in the Takahashi family, and Moore reconciles conflicting information regarding the first meeting of David and Katchoo.
David’s Story ends with a revisiting of events from the first issue. While Moore matches the original panels and dialogue, he adds additional material and context. The retcon won’t satisfy those who wish that David and Katchoo's meeting had been the chance encounter it initially appeared to be. That it was otherwise, however, has long been established. Rather than repudiate years of continuity, Moore wisely chose to reconcile initial impressions with later developments.
David's Story features less quirky artwork than most past issues, but the approach suits the more focused, serious tale. The cinematic, nearly wordless handling of the trial and of Yousaka/David's conversion rank among Moore's best work. What does a religious experience sound like? He correctly leaves the question unanswered. The pictures show us what David feels.
Half of the trial likewise has neither narration nor dialogue; Moore could have also dispensed with words on at least one other page. The images tell these parts of the story more effectively, and illustrate the contrast between the wealthy, connected Takahashi and the poor Qins.
I’m uncertain what to make, however, of the Qins' "pro bono lawyer." This is a criminal case in the state of California. The Takahashi family might win, but they would be up against a District Attorney. Moore appears to have confused criminal and civil proceedings.
Overall, this represents a strong if atypical Strangers in Paradise story. Katchoo plays a comparatively small role; Francine Peters does not appear at all. David, unseen for many issues, takes center stage. His story features strong internal coherence, but it also gels with the entire series and reinforces the idea that it could be read as a unified graphic novel. The tale of a man seeking redemption by honoring his victim's life is not new, but it represents an original approach to SiP, and Moore has told it well.2
1. Of course, we have to ignore some early issues where David's sister is identified with the name "Qin."
2. This story end with a clever, "Continued in Issue #1," a reference to the fact that these events lead up to the original Strangers tale. For those who didn't like the meandering, continuity-violating later issues, one could easily stop reading at this point. The issues up to the end of David's Story actually constitute a more coherent tale than the total run.