Thee Comic Column #65: The Return of Stray Bullets!

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Last week before the bad news pertaining to one of my favorite books there was some good news. No, scratch that, there was some AMAZING news! David Lapham’s Stray Bullets, formerly published by his own independent El Capitan, is returning after a nine year (NINE YEARS?!?) hiatus and one of the most heart-wrenching cliffhangers since… well, since Twin Peaks season two’s final episode. And in returning, Stray Bullets has been picked up by Image Comics! So before you go any further reading this go to the series’ Image page HERE where the first four issues are FREE! After that you’ll be hooked and 5-40 are available digitally for $1.99 each. Or, if you’re like me and would rather hold the book in your hand after you see how great it is just wait – if you can – until March 12th when 1-41 are collected in the Stray Bullets Uber Allies Edition – which I believe will be priced at a mere $60 for all those great comics!

This is good – this much rollout means this is a serious return, and that the nine years will have been worth it!

It’s hard for me to sum up what Stray Bullets means to me. I’ll never forget the oft-mentioned-here Barry at long-gone High Five comics in Palos Hills putting the first issue of Stray Bullets in my hand, trying in his own subtle way to show me there was a lot more out there than the (at the time) stupid X-books I read and inevitably complained about every month (post Claremont people). I’ve always thought of those as the ‘inertia’ years of my comics reading because everything I read was out of the inertia of having read it for so long. Then Stray Bullets came along (with Preacher and a few others) and saved me. And Stray Bullets grabbed me right off the bat. The first issue – which was something of a flash forward and to which I’ve always labored under the assumption the story was eventually working toward – left me a little bit ill. And at that time, for a comic to inspire a physiological reaction in me was not a common thing anymore. Then issue 2 came out and that was where I was hooked. Virginia Applejack’s story was so heartfelt and tragic that I fell in head over heels. Same with all of the original characters, slowly rolled out in those first five or so issues: Beth, Nina, Orson and of course, Spanish Scott.

Bad ass. Scum, but a bad ass.

The evolution of these people’s lives (and many of their deaths) was something that unfolded in such simple, powerful storytelling that the book became a beacon for me. Being independently produced the publishing was somewhat irregular, and the internet didn’t really figure into my life at the time, so when I would walk into the comic shop and find the latest issue in my pull box it was an EVENT. I’d go home, middle of the day or not, twist one and read the issue. Then I’d usually go back and read the surrounding issues. I didn’t do this kind of thing for any other book at the time. I just wanted to fall into the gloriously dark world of Stray Bullets and wander around. This is because the story, the characters, the art – all these things are top of the game. You’ll hear Stray Bullets called ‘the greatest crime comic ever’. Well, I agree and disagree. It is perhaps the greatest ‘crime’ comic ever because it is not a ‘crime’ comic. I love Brubaker and Rucka’s crime stuff, but those are explicitly crime books – they work within a genre that they attempt and usually succeed in elevating. Stray Bullets has no genre, it has characters and those characters often find themselves in situations that, whether on accident or on purpose, devolve into criminal activities. And then there’s the fall out. The terrible, terrible fallout you can’t help but read and re-read and maybe even shed a tear over.

The Cliff Hanger:

Mr. Lapham began to get a lot more work from the big companies – deservedly so – and Stray Bullets’ publication schedule grew more erratic. When Stray Bullets #40 came out I remember reading it and thinking, “can’t wait for the next one. What a cliff hanger!”

It’s nine years later. To say I’m excited is an understatement. And I think it’s interesting how the book is returning – #41 will conclude that storyline and then Stray Bullets: Killers will debut with a number 1 and function as a ‘soft reboot’ of the series. When you consider that SB always jumped around in its timeline from issue to issue (a great person id a great chronology you can download here) I’m working under the delicious assumption that this means we’re going to move back before the events of the current storyline and see other aspects of the bigger picture we’ve not seen before. This is going to be bad news for the inhabitants of those books but good news for the readers, because the cover of Stray Bullets: Killers alone is a harbinger. But that’s what’s so great about this book –  you get to know the characters so well. Mr. Lapham has made these people so real, that for myself, when I see certain ones on the page I get happy, I see others and I can detect a small buzzing of fear in my lower back.

And that’s f$%king awesome.

Stray Bullets #41, Stray Bullets: Killers #1 and The Uber Allies Edition all currently have a release date of March 12th so you’ve got plenty of time to check this out. Trust me – it’s worth it.


Can’t find a comic shop? You can always use old reliable Comic Shop Locator at 1-800-COMIC-BOOK. Or you can take some of my recommendations. If you live in the greater Chicagoland area I recommend any of the wonderful four locations of Amazing Fantasy Books. In Los Angeles it’s The Comic Bug. Las Vegas it’s Alternate Reality Comics. San Francisco? Try the Isotope Comic Lounge and if you happen to venture a little further North I’d say you have to visit The Escapist Comic Book Store in Berkley (with the wonderful Dark Carnival Books next door and owned by the same folks). Read on!!!

Shawn C Baker

Shawn C Baker

Shawn lives in Los Angeles where he co-hosts Drinking w/ Comics, writes screenplays and fiction and has been known to drink quite a bit of beer. Good beer.

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