Stray Bullets 40 (October 2005)

Stray Bullets #40

This issue is the story of Kevin’s father. Kevin is the bad guy who has kidnapped Virginia with badder guy Huss.

Kevin’s dad is deaf and he’s a drunk because a low level mobster took off one of his fingers and he can’t hear his kid trying to gang rape a teenage girl. Lapham’s aiming for the stars here as far as artistic ambition.

Oddly, he clearly thinks it’s a great idea–the storytelling device with the deaf guy moving in front of all this action and not being aware of it. But the art’s crap, so it’s not like he worked on it.

Lapham also thinks it’s a good idea to reduce a character who was once one of the best female comic book characters to a mannequin who’s single purpose to be exploited. Apparently, Lapham can’t do anything else with Bullets but assault, rape or molest Virginia.

It’s repugnant.

F 

CREDITS

Zippity Doo-Dah!; writer, artist, and letterer, David Lapham; editors, Renee Miller and Maria Lapham; publisher, El Capitán Books.

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Stray Bullets 39 (September 2005)

Silly me, how did I forget Lapham always follows up hard cliffhangers with Amy Racecar stories. Sadly, not even Amy Racecar is safe from Lapham’s laziness.

It isn’t a story about Amy–her sidekick, William, returns, because apparently Virginia and Amy both always need sidekicks now. She doesn’t narrate, which is good, because it’s a terrible story and I wouldn’t have wanted to read Lapham write bad Amy Racecar narration. It would have made me sadder.

The issue has her in feudal Japan because someone–probably Lapham, not Virginia–was on a Kurosawa kick. Lots of visual references to some of Kurosawa’s most famous samurai movies. Not to mention a direct homage to Yojimbo. It’s too bad Lapham didn’t spend the time on the actual content of this issue.

Also, there are a lot of bad puns.

Lapham’s awful output’s confusing. He’s not trying with story or art; it’s terrible.

D- 

CREDITS

Hatukaraki!!!!; writer, artist, and letterer, David Lapham; editors, Renee Miller and Maria Lapham; publisher, El Capitán Books.

Stray Bullets 38 (May 2005)

Stray Bullets #38

Seriously? Seriously? Okay, so the bad guy who’s secretly gay and can’t accept it so he rapes other guys is named Huss. He’s the villain. I wonder why Lapham wanted to do this story arc. Bullets always had some kind of point, the way it revolved around a certain group of criminals. And then Virginia’s story too, of course.

But Lapham has now set Virginia up as a superhero against this villain kid. There’s no attempt at understanding this kid, which is strange since Lapham was always sympathetic to the kid who shot up the first issue. One might have thought Bullets would be about him and Virginia.

Instead of Virginia coming up against villains to defeat. Ones who are number one murder suspects who then just get away with it.

I think the art is a little better than last issue but not by much.

Lousy hard cliffhanger too.

D 

CREDITS

Poppycock; writer, artist, and letterer, David Lapham; editors, Renee Miller and Maria Lapham; publisher, El Capitán Books.

Stray Bullets 37 (March 2005)

Stray Bullets #37

Okay, so the high school arc is apparently all about Virginia going up against that kid who went insane because he had a gay encounter. Actually, it’s rather homophobic. Not just that event and the outcome, but the series overall. This issue has the guy raping another kid (another guy).

Lapham’s nothing if he isn’t cheap. And vaguely homophobic. And really lazy on the art. It’s the worst art in the series ever.

But he’s also got Virginia stirring the pot and investigating and it’s hard not to appreciate having her around. Even if all the high school stuff is idiotic and somehow getting worse. This Bullets arc is set in the early eighties so maybe you didn’t go to jail as a teenager if you murdered someone, which is the implication with the villain.

And why does the comic now have (another) shallow villain? Because Lapham’s given up entirely.

C 

CREDITS

Fiddlesticks; writer, artist, and letterer, David Lapham; editors, Renee Miller and Maria Lapham; publisher, El Capitán Books.

Stray Bullets 36 (January 2005)

Stray Bullets #36

Some of Lapham’s problem is the lack of restraint. He’s let Bullets go all over the place, he’s let his art go to pot and he’s gone too far. Maybe he hyper-extended his narrative muscles too many times and they’re just damaged.

This issue has Virginia bonding with her awful mother’s new boyfriend, who’s not a good boyfriend but isn’t a terrible guy. And there’s some stuff with her sister. If it had been the first in the “Virginia goes home” arc, it might have been a little better because some of it wouldn’t seem so forced, like the Leon references.

Oh, right–Lapham does it all from Virginia’s diary. Just like he used to do when the comic was frequently fantastic. It hasn’t even been good lately and the return to the device seems a tad desperate.

At least this time, Virginia carries the issue to moderate success.

B- 

CREDITS

Monkey Business; writer, artist, and letterer, David Lapham; editors, Renee Miller and Maria Lapham; publisher, El Capitán Books.

Stray Bullets 35 (October 2004)

Stray Bullets #35

Lapham is really enjoying his high school arc. It’s not as violent anymore because of Virginia getting the cops involved with the brawl. Or so Leon, who’s around to explain everything to Virginia because she’s become a caricature, says.

Leon and Virginia sit around and comment on the events in the issue, a jock-related love triangle. Because everyone reading Stray Bullets wants to read a misanthropic, X-rated version of “Friday Night Lights.” It should be better, for Lapham to take the traditional lionizing of high school athletes and show the realistic side of it but… it’s not. It’s terrible. It’s a dumb idea for a story and Lapham is incompetent at executing it.

From the first couple pages, I could tell he was slacking on the art and I kept hoping he wouldn’t slack on the writing too. I kept waiting for a point. There isn’t any point.

D- 

CREDITS

Bamboozled; writer, artist, and letterer, David Lapham; editors, Renee Miller and Maria Lapham; publisher, El Capitán Books.

Stray Bullets 34 (June 2004)

Stray Bullets #34

And here we have the issue where a couple drunk male friends fool around and it doesn’t just ruin their friendship, one of them goes insane and kills the other one.

Guess Lapham liked American Beauty too. The trope wasn’t original in that movie either.

There’s no context for the story. The guys are a couple jerks, so it’s not like Lapham creates much sympathy for their psychological distress. In some ways, Bullets is at its best with the done-in-ones, even the terrible ones like this issue. Because then Lapham’s failings are disposable. It’s a bad issue, not a bad arc.

The art is a little bit better than it has been lately. A little. Lapham is still dragging out his action scenes and his attempt at a haunting finale is a joke. But the art’s a little better.

The comic reads fast. At least it reads fast.

D 

CREDITS

Higily-Pigily; writer, artist, and letterer, David Lapham; editor, Renee Miller; publisher, El Capitán Books.

Stray Bullets 33 (May 2004)

Stray Bullets #33

Here’s another example of Lapham slacking off. And it’s on a Virginia issue too, which is upsetting because he usually treats her better.

It’s in high school, with Virginia setting off the jocks against the greasers. Because Grease, right? I don’t know what else to say about it, actually. I mean, aside from the fighting, there are a lot of lengthy action montages–who knew throwing rocks at a window was worth a page–and not much else. Lapham is back to treating the comic like a parody of itself. Virginia is the superhero.

The most annoying part has to be the appearance from her mother. Lapham’s totally ignored Virginia’s home life. At this point it seems like he’s too cowardly to do it. Instead he just has the high school where kids are allowed to castrate each other.

But seriously, his lame handling of Virginia post-kidnapping is unforgivable.

D 

CREDITS

Donnybrook; writer, artist, and letterer, David Lapham; editor, Renee Miller; publisher, El Capitán Books.

Stray Bullets 32 (May 2003)

Stray Bullets #32

Lapham hasn’t just run out of ideas, he’s now doing reruns. This issue of Stray Bullets reminds of a few others, but in bits and pieces. So less a rerun, I guess, and more a remix.

Some classmates of Virginia–who also remember her before she ran away (in a school district with so much assault going on, wouldn’t there be a lot of runaways and not just one)–are goofing off while waiting in a parking lot and they piss off the wrong guy.

This wrong guy works for the unseen criminal boss Harry.

The guy spends the rest of the issue torturing the kid who heckled him from the car window. There’s actually a chance for Lapham to do something with it at the end and he doesn’t. He goes the safe route, the Stray Bullets route. The comic’s practically a parody of itself.

Loose art too.

D 

CREDITS

Shenanigans; writer, artist, and letterer, David Lapham; editor, Karen Hoyt; publisher, El Capitán Books.

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