Becoming a Stray Bullets fan isn’t an easy task. The first run of this comic started in 1995 and didn’t finish until 2015. You read that right, fans waited 20 years to finish that one story. Very few mediums have to put up with that kind of stuff – well, okay, unless you were a Doctor Who fan from way back when, but lets be honest: you’re not. The point is you had to be a real comic book fan to be following the story. You had to have your ear to the ground and be into “the scene”. Well, the good news is that David Lapham has brought the story back with an all new story arc and all new characters, thus creating one of the best jumping on points for the series.
First off, this is the kind of book that some people are going to need a character web to get their noggin around. There’s a lot of characters, a lot of connections between those characters, and the book doesn’t really stop to explain to exactly what’s going on. There is however a hitman, a girl and a large collection of bad men on all sides which is pretty much all you need to know is going in.
The writing in this comic is terse, sparse and deserving of all the respect if gets from its fans. It really does put the “graphic” back into graphic novel, however. It’s violent, full of coarse language, and I’m pretty sure there was an implied anal sex joke so it goes without saying that it’s not for children. If I had to pick one thing to praise though it’s the fact that this comic has a whole friggin’ story. If you read certain comics published by certain giant mega companies, you’ll notice a trend towards longer story arcs with multiple issues, but with very little meat for each individual comic. I think comics these days are looking towards the movie scene with interest, which makes sense as graphic novels are breathing new life to this industry. But you can’t just cut a movie into twenty minute increments and call it a television show. Stray Bullets: Sunshine and Roses actually has the balls to sell you a whole story with a beginning, middle, and end. You’ll want to continue with issue two because issue one was so good, not because you want to know how it ends.
Earlier I said this comic put the “graphic” back in graphic novel, (and I realize it’s a comic book but shut up) and you might think that was a compliment towards the art. However, the art is pretty bare bones. Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with the art. It’s clear, fluid, and the characters are distinct and well characterized. But I really get the feeling that David is drawing this comic more so that he has complete control of the story, rather than because his own artwork is jaw-dropping. There were a couple little mishaps, an action scene that took me a second to read and a “v” that looks like a “y” in the word Elvis, but every scene feels beat for beat perfect. This probably fits into why the story feels so much like a complete one; the panels aren’t afraid to get small and in this age of “cinematic” comics it’s nice to read a comic that remembers it’s supposed to be a comic.
I’m a simple man. Generally speaking I prefer stories which are simple from a narrative stand-point but have a thematic depth. This is one of the reasons why, despite my problems with the genre, I’m an avid superhero fan. Stray Bullets: Sunshine and Roses is not simple. This is a huge cast and very well might take you a second reading to really “get” how everyone connects. That being said, you will enjoy reading the comic the first time and the second time thereafter. If you’ve never read Stray Bullets, now’s the best time to start.
“Stray Bullets: Sunshine and Roses #1” earns 9/10
P.S. If you want to enjoy some issues of the original comic, then check out the link below for the first four issues.