Comic book review for Abstract Studio’s Strangers in Paradise (Vol 4) by Terry Moore
Strangers in Paradise (Vol 4) certainly keeps up with the quality of writing and art in the other three volumes. Moore does not disappoint there.
However, what does drag on and drags the narrative down is the once again off-and-not-quite-on nature of Katchoo and Francine’s relationship. As much as the readership and the narrative wants Katchoo and Francine together, it does get tiring. And I can see why, when talking about Strangers in Paradise with other fans, they’ve stopped part way through the tale and throw up their hands in frustration.
Don’t worry, gentle readers, I already own the next two volumes so I’ll be finishing it.
At one point, Moore even throws in a grown-up Ashley as a lampshade on the frustrating nature of Katchoo and Francine’s relationship. In Ashley’s world, she’s written a book, called Strangers in Paradise about the romance and trials of her two mothers, Francine and Katchoo. An editor tells Ashley that her book needs more polish, especially on the drawn-out and repetitive nature of Francine and Katchoo’s break-ups and reunions.
An older Francine and Katchoo assure their daughter that real life is much more complex and tedious than a book. And as Ashley assures them that she wants to stay true to their story, they both admit that not everything Ashley thinks happened really did happen. Particularly, Katchoo not really knowing why David came into her life until much later, and Ashley thinking she told David she knew after the plane crash when he was in the ICU.
Besides this foray into the distance future (?), the bulk of Strangers in Paradise (Vol 4) focuses on Francine’s pending marriage to Brad Silver and her pregnancy. As her wedding to Brad gets closer, Francine’s feet get colder. She considers all the possible options of which path she could take in her life. Does she marry Brad? Does she run off to live with Katchoo? Does she keep the baby and how would its life be impacted by her staying with Brad or being with Katchoo? Will Katchoo be in her life if she stays with Brad? How will her mother react?
There are several long fantasy scenes where Francine plays out each scenario in her head. In the end, she decides she needs to move back to Houston and figure out who she is. Francine also decides that she wants to keep the baby and raise it herself. In essence, Francine does need to figure out herself. Not just if she’s straight or gay or bisexual. She’s molded herself around the men in her life — her father, Brad, Freddie — and Katchoo and her mother. Since Strangers in Paradise started, Francine’s never been by herself.
Casey plays a huge role here in both bringing Katchoo and Francine back together and driving them apart again. Casey goes on vacation to Hawaii — immediately, picking up a hunky guy to spend her vacation with — and pushes herself back into the lives of Katchoo and David, who’ve been living there for a while. Casey works as such a great foil in that she’s incredibly perky and she has no clue about the Parker Girls and the mob plots. As Katchoo and Francine are barely talking, Casey becomes their go-between, dropping bits of important information like that Francine moves back to Houston.
But Casey also drives them apart. When Katchoo and Francine start officially dating, Katchoo becomes tired of waiting for a physical relationship and ends up at Casey’s house. It’s vague whether or not Casey and Katchoo slept together, but Francine thinks they did. And that’s all that matters.
And in the perfect storm, Katchoo doesn’t chase after Francine and Francine goes back to her home crying, only to find Brad and his famous musician brother Griffin Silver on her doorstep. She decides to go back to Brad.
For both Katchoo and Francine, their lives becomes the post-them version. Casey also plays a role in keeping them further apart as she deletes a message from Francine on Katchoo’s phone. A message telling Katchoo that Francine miscarried and needs Katchoo’s love and support.
On Francine’s wedding day, Katchoo shows up (having just been given the message) and begs Francine one more time to be with her or to say goodbye. Francine chooses goodbye. She’s going to marry Brad. To which all the readers throw down the book in annoyance.
While Vol 4 was mob-lite as Katchoo destroyed the Six in the last book, it does have a few dangling threads. After being rejected by Katchoo after their one-night stand and not talking for months, David moves back to Japan. He seems to spend his days meditating high up on a mountain with his girlfriend. Though it’s implied he’s also back in the family business. No doubt letting Tambi run it.
But then Tambi shows up with a gun, telling David that she’s going to kill him as he didn’t do what she asked and she has no more use for him. Turns out Tambi sent David to impregnate Katchoo so their family could have an heir.
David compromises with Tambi by having sex with her to impregnate her. The sex scene between Tambi and David is played off as kind of brutally comedic. It’s odd and uncomfortable. There are turkey basters for a reason, people. Tambi later finds out she’s not pregnant after her time with David.
Additionally, Tambi sends a woman named Cherry to protect Katchoo. Katchoo doesn’t pay much attention to her sister’s warnings about a killer being out there who takes out former Parker Girls. So Cherry sits on the sidelines, protecting Katchoo without her even knowing.
Turns out that Francine’s new therapist and Freddie’s client turned Casey’s newest gym client is a former Parker Girl out for blood. As Vicky Weiss plans on killing Katchoo (and Casey), Cherry and Becky take out Vicky without Katchoo even realizing.
Also Sara Bryant, a young FBI agent, decides that she’s going to find all the remaining Parker Girls. It’s unclear what she’s gunning at. Almost just to see if the legends are true about them. But she squirrels her way into Katchoo’s life (undetected even by Tambi) as Katchoo’s new model/studio assistant.
Overall, I found Strangers in Paradise (Vol 4)’s plot to be repetitive. At least when it came to the central conflict being if Francine would choose Brad or Katchoo. And somehow, I’m not surprised that the book ended with Katchoo walking away from Francine as Francine gets married.
Support this blog and read how Francine breaks Katchoo’s heart again in Strangers in Paradise Pocket Book Collection #04.