Publisher: Image Comics (November 27, 2018)
Softcover, 248 pages
This book collects issues 17 through 24 of the on-going series. Beth, Orson, and Nina are still on the run from gangsters with two suitcases full of money and cocaine. Adding to this, Orson was badly injured by in the last volume and the group is forced to seek refuge with Beth’s mother. Who turns out to be a short-sighted, narcissistic, looks-obsessed, bad housewife whose side job is dealing pot to the local middle-schoolers.
The usual violent hi-jinks occurs. People are beaten up, people are shot, people are killed. The group nearly loses all of the money and drugs and then get it back. Several people from the past show up looking for the group, only to be put off and hospitalized. What comes across in these issues is how remarkably well-adjusted Beth actually is compared to what she had to deal with. I won’t say things go off-the-rails because they’re never on-the-rails to begin with. The story is just one wonderful messed-up episode of betrayal, self-deception, and hatred. In short, a perfect Stray Bullets tale.
The Lil B’ fantasy stories, which are a spin-off from the Amy Racecar fantasies, are given some context in this volume. Apparently they are delusional episodes by Beth as an eight-year-old after she was put into a coma for four days when her mother struck her in the head with a steel pot. It’s nice they are explained. The original Amy Racecar stories were obviously bits of power fantasy drawn by a young Virginia Applejack, while these seemed to be an attempt by Beth to figure out some great mystery that she cannot fully comprehend and whose answers shift without rhyme or reason. Which fits the dreamtime scenario.
But unlike the Amy Racecar stories from the original, the Lil B’ ones are beginning to become cumbersome. I find myself rushing through them in order to get back on track with the “real” story. It worked before when the narrative would jump with every issue, but now that Stray Bullets is telling a more linear tale they have become road bumps, things to get through, rather than fun asides. It’s a tribute to the author’s story telling that I’m interested in what happens next to Beth, Orson, and Nina- even though we know their ultimate fate.
For more readings, try books by Rex Hurst.