Comics review: Strangers in Paradise by Terry Moore

Strangers in Paradise is a supposedly feminist comic series, but written by a man, first published in 1993, presenting a highly improbable slice of life of two young woman: Katchoo and Francine: an aggressive man-hater artist and her best friend (and not so secret love interest) a man doormat. 

I have seen the thick volumes in the library for decades, once flicked through, but it really wasn’t my style so I put it back. And I didn’t really think much about it later. Then there was a promotion a few months back on kindle and I ended up getting the ebook of the first volume for free. Because I’ve seen it around so much, and it’s extremely well rated, I thought I was being biased against the drawing and I should probably bite the bullet, basically it seemed fair to give it a go, especially in quarantine.

But I will sadly admit I do not get the enthusiasm. I hated it.

The drawing is entirely subjective, it is a classic superhero type comic book style. Very clear black and white, detailed paneling, and bodies, faces well proportioned. The women all do look very similar and are recognised thanks to their hair colour / cut mainly. But I have no qualms with the illustrations, they are a good execution of their own style. I do admit I prefer soft lines and penciled work over inked works, so it doesn’t connect much with me – probably a generation thing.

But my real problem with this comic is the story. The two main women are very unlikable for opposite reasons. One is definitely too angsty and aggressive and in your face and annoying while the other is just pain stupid, and more stupid and extra annoying. Any excuse seems to do to get the two women undressed, even no excuse at all, just because: why not? And almost all the men are the worst kinds of perverts.

At the beginning, in a forward, Moore explains he wanted to write something different, something more real. And I just don’t see it, or feel it. Sometimes you get brilliant emotional insight in the most far fetched story. I read some teen mangas creating surprisingly deep emotional connections with the most unlikely fantasy character where I felt truly and unexpectedly moved… that was not the case here by far, I felt nothing but, you guessed it, annoyed. I see a little of tank girl in there, but missing the fun crazy element. It just felt very heavy handed and hollow. 

I can’t think who to recommend this comic to, and if anyone loves it, please do explain what it is you saw in it. I really have trouble understanding, but I am curious.

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