I Dream of You, second and lengthiest of the Strangers in Paradise trade paperbacks, collects the first nine issues of the second series. It also features some sketches and thoughts from author Terry Moore, a foreword by Diana Schultz, and an afterword by Dave Sim.
Title: I Dream of You (Issues #1-9 of the second series)
Author: Terry Moore.
Katchoo left a brief note and disappeared for two months. This part of the story begins with her return to Houston from Toronto, where she was visiting a friend who is dying from AIDS-related complications. During her absence Francine has fallen into depression and is eating everything in sight, while David has arranged for an exhibit of Katchoo’s paintings.
When Katchoo and David’s mysterious pasts, only hinted at in the earlier issues, finally catch up with their current lives, the soap opera becomes a violent thriller. This portion of the genre-bending series clearly plays with conventions, but it is no less suspenseful for the fact. The outcome remains in doubt, and the explanation for events remains incomplete. Moore clearly intends this fact; the conversation between Katchoo and likeable, tough-guy detective Mike Walsh towards the end calls attention to the unanswered questions, just as a similar encounter between these characters did near the end of the first series. It’s a structuring device to which Moore often returns, which allows each story arc to more easily become a part of the larger, loose graphic novel which is Strangers in Paradise. We’re also introduced the Swiss bank account and the house in Hawaii that will figure into the story at some future time.
The characterization of the principals has only improved since the first issues. Katina, Francine, and David are as stylized as everything else in this comic, but they’re based in recognizable human types. We also meet a number of other characters, some of whom will become important parts of the saga. In addition to villain Darcy Parker, these issues mark the first appearances of Francine’s doting mother and her drunken Uncle Maury, dubious private eye Digman1, dippy Casey (first words: “Hi. Tee hee hee”), Katchoo’s lost years partner Emmie, muscle-girl Tambi, and a number of Parker Girls associates.
The forays into various noir and thriller-related genres make for fun, page-turning reading. Still, some of Darcy Parker’s machinations seem needlessly convoluted, even in light of future developments. Much of what happens in the overall SiP story does so because of the remarkable Ms. Parker, and she creates a fine sense of menace. I always found her slightly lacking as a believable villain. Even for Moore’s stylized world, she’s a little too cartoony.
Artistically, Moore hits his stride here. He may lack Alex Ross’s photographic style, but he creates a fully-realized world, very like the one we inhabit but brimming with comic-book detail and exaggeration. Moore combines text and images in simple but often effective ways that never occur to many comic artists. He also gives us dream sequences drawn in other styles: Disneyesque cute animal, kiddie comic strip. These give us a different perspective on the central characters, as well as comic-appropriate representations of their inner lives. While it’s not a strictly realistic comic, it remains rare—and was even more so when the original issues first appeared-- to see a diversity of female body types in comix.
This issue contains a notorious (to fans) continuity error, though it could not have been identified as such at the time. Katchoo claims that she and Francine have been best friends since grade seven. The series will later definitively establish that the girls only met and became friends during their senior year of high school. Now, the pair often toss bizarre references into their banter. Later, Katchoo makes a reference to their non-existent cat (she’s done so before), and we understand that this is deliberate. We know they don’t have a cat. Whereas the cat reference serves some kind of purpose, the reference to grade seven does not.
It’s a minor point but, given SiP’s strong continuity (at least in the early issues) it’s somewhat jarring. Much later in the series, Moore will introduce a brief flashback that attempts to reconcile the contradiction. It’s ingenious, but it seems pretty clear that he had not fully developed the back story at this early point.
The late Will Eisner said that comic books allow for someone who is slightly inept as both a writer and as a fine artist to combine the two into "an eptitude—if that’s a word."1 While I wouldn’t call Moore inept, Strangers in Paradise definitely proves greater than the sum of its parts. Flaws in I Dream of You seem less significant when read in context of the entire book. It’s a good read, capable of touching a wide and diverse audience.
1. Not quite his first appearance. Apparently, Digman is "Wayne," the corrupt cop from the previous series, now out of the force and working as a P.I.
2. Quoted in Comic Book Confidential
A variation of this review first appeared at Bureau42.
Ranty note, possibly note applicable to all editions: Who edited this thing? There’s an it's vs. its error on the back cover blurb. There’s an it’s/its error in an extended prose section. Ditto in David Sim’s afterword. How hard would it be to find an editor, for crying out loud, who knows the difference?