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Stray Bullets has gone on for such a long time with its current arc that it looks like it will never really be topped. “Sunshine & Roses”, which started a little over a year ago, has just reached its 17th issue and shows no signs of stopping. Is this a good thing however? Or does it give the impression of stagnation on David Lapham’s part? Let’s find out.
I should start out by saying that when this story arc first began it easily would have been counted in my top 3 of the entire series. It was a nostalgic tale set in the early days of the comic but also fresh and a welcome addition rather than a repetitive prequel. It was a sheer delight to see Orson, Beth, and even Spanish Scott back for something that would bring the series back to its literal roots. Not knocking “Killers”, but this felt much more classic.
Yet the arc has now hit the point where it has probably overstayed its welcome. The grand climax that the arc had been building up toward passed by three issues ago, and yet we’re still here and now running aimlessly through a variety of set pieces that don’t really gel. We had an issue told from a third party perspective, another from an ‘in medias res’ perspective, and now one that is solely to lead into another mark in the trail. It’s not cohesive, it ping balls everywhere.
The story itself is told in a similar manner, detached and disaffected from the normal energy and heat that the rest are chock full of, in terms of crime at least. This is just a few spaced out vignettes that never hook you in and struggle to retain your interest. It’s not told particularly well and leaves off with an ending that makes you wish that the entirety of it had just been the first half of the next issue. It has that feel to it, no doubt.
If read in trade it would no doubt be a great lull before a comic twist of fate, but this is not the trade and that’s far off anyway. We’re in single-issue-ville and the train has just stopped at a station where this comes off as a waste of an issue. The art although, as is usual of Lapham, is on point, and he hasn’t really failed with his timing of panel transitions per page. There’s a nicely funny sequence, but in the grand scheme it just highlights the overall story’s lacking buzz.
With recent solicits as of October 2016 showing that the arc still has no end in sight, it becomes really insane that what had started out being possibly one of the best tales in the series could be the worst when all is said and done. I hope the next issue is able to give it the kick in the ass that it needs to really get back to business, but who can tell? The fact that it was a prequel helped when it could run on nostalgia, but now it seems like a detriment as we slag toward the inevitable conclusion as slowly as possible. Stray Bullets is better than that.