I got hooked on David Lapham's crime noir series Stray Bullets the first time I picked up one of the original trade paperback collections. I kept picking them up periodically, but it was a long time before I got to read Vol. 1, and I never found a copy of Vol. 7. The original trades ended with Vol. 8 (at issue #32), which left issues #33-40 uncollected. Not only that, but issue #41, which ended the original run of the series, was delayed when the entire series went on hiatus.

The Über Alles Edition, which collects all of the issues from #1 - 41, fills in all the gaps. I was about to read the issues I missed, but realized that I had read some of the earlier collections out of order--and it had been a long time since I read the last one. So I'm starting from the beginning, and thought it might be interesting to record my impressions as I went.

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"I don't remember much about her."

I'm gong to have to go back and check when she first appeared. (Maybe you haven't gotten to her yet...?) I don't want to give anything away.

Wikia to the rescue again. She hasn't appeared yet (the first collection covers issues #1-8). And it turns out the earlier Kretchmeyer things weren't really appearances. SB #7 includes art in the back that was later used for Sunshine & Roses #1, so it's only technically his first appearance. And in Killers he is mentioned--a lot of action comes from his goons--but doesn't actually appear on panel. So my memory isn't so bad, after all.

Stray Bullets: Sunshine & Roses, Vol. 2

The second Sunshine & Roses collection (Issues #9-16) is almost entirely devoted to Beth and Orson's big heist: the lead-up, the heist itself, and the immediate aftermath as they go on the lam. All of this fills in background to the original Stray Bullets series, going back to Issue # 5. Here in 1981, Beth and Orson are sharing a freaky codependent relationship. They're both using drugs, Orson is trying to convince Rose that they are a couple--while still keeping contact with Nina--and Beth is stringing Kretchmeyer along.

The events leading up to the heist are an unlikely combination of planning and chance. Spanish Scott demonstrates his usual insight, which looks like the end of the plan--but there are more moving parts than he anticipated, despite his legendary instincts. Ultimately Beth and Orson succeed in the theft--although not exactly as they planned--but they find themselves hobbled with Krethchmeyer and Harry's son Joey.

Events transpire, leaving the group with an injured witness. But Krethchmeyer is out of the picture, which counts as a win. There are details about how Orson and Beth wound up in Woodlake in the original series, which may or may not be revealed in the next collection. But this is a satisfying chapter in the story. I will say that it could have been done in fewer issues, and the obligatory Amy Racecar issue is becoming tedious.

Apparently Annie has still not been introduced. A quick internet search reveals her first appearance is Sunshine & Roses #17, so next volume.

I noticed that too. The next volume is already available on Hoopla, so I should get to it soon. What do you think about the pacing? I feel like Lapham is stretching the story more than it needs. I'm looking forward to the next volume, but not as much as in the past.

"What do you think about the pacing?"

Generally speaking, I liked the non-linear story-telling, now aparently abandoned, which was part of the fun. I agree that Lapham is stretching the story, especially in more recent issues, but I predict you'll like Annie (as a character, not necessarily as a person).

Stray Bullets: Sunshine & Roses, Part 3

Sunshine & Roses Part 3 (Issues #17-24) is all getaway from the big score. Beth, Orson, Nina and Joey run to the last place Beth wants to be: her mother Annie's house in Florida. Annie is definitely a piece of work: she is lying about her age and her history to her husband and everyone else, and gets into drug dealing to pay for the luxuries her husband can't afford. She has two kids, but no interest in being a mother--which confirms at least one of the things that Beth has said about her.

Annie has gotten mixed up with two mall security guards--who caught her stealing a designer purse--when her ex-husband Paulo shows up. Shortly after that, Beth and her group make their appearance. It's not a happy family reunion, and the arc has barely started. Annie soon suspects that something is going on, courtesy of pumping Joey for information, and Annie and her security guard lover Ralphie find the coke and the cash.

So when Monster, Spanish Scott, Sarousian and Kretchmeyer (who turns out to have survived the night of the heist after all) track them down they can honestly say that they do not know where the money and drugs are. When Joey finally figures out how to call his mom Rose she adds to the mix. Somehow, through the usual mix of boldness and luck, Beth, Orson and Nina wind up on the road. They are headed for a random place where no one will think to look for them, but stop off in New Orleans first for a surreal little adventure.  Still not in Woodlake, but they're getting there.

There is the expected Amy Racecar issue here as well. But there is a significant twist: it is finally revealed that the Amy Racecar stories were all imagined by Beth as a girl during the four days she was in a coma after being hit over the head with a pot by her mother Annie. This certainly explains the aspects of them that relate to her actual history, as well as the childlike fantasy elements.

Stray Bullets: Sunshine & Roses, Part 4 - "The Salad Days"

Part 4 (Issues #25-32) opens with the earliest event in the Stray Bullets chronology so far: Kretchmeyer is leaving his parents' house in December, 1974. We get a good look at the dysfunctional family dynamics--before he kills his parents, believing he has made a clean break. These scenes are interspersed with Baltimore in 1979: Beth, Nina, Scott and Krethchmeyer are dealing with Harry and the drug trade. In the end Beth agrees to go to Sante Fe with Kretchmeyer and Scott, where they bond over peyote.

The rest of the collection follows the various splinter groups as they pursue their various agendas. Having recently purchased the original art for page 13 from Issue #22, it was an odd experience seeing it displayed on my wall as I began reading, as it is part of the precipitating event that drives the action here. Annie and Kretchmeyer make plans to go into business, and seek revenge together. In the meantime, Annie suggests to Kretchmeyer that they try to find his brother Vic, and they drive to North Dakota. Beth and the gang are hiding out in Tennessee. Orson is still disguising himself as Derek, complete with mustache (an identity which frees him to do increasingly crazy things). Vic, Kretchmeyer's little brother, is beaten and thrown out of a bar after failing to score some heroin for him and his girlfriend Verne. Vic takes a job on a farm for the father of Carlos, an old army buddy, and meets Josefina, his sister.

Kretchmeyer and Annie return to Kretch's home town, and discover that the murder has not remained anonymous: Kretch's father survived long enough to identify him as the murderer. When Kretch and Annie catch up to Vic, they warn him that the police are on his trail. Another narrative thread follows Spanish Scott and an accomplice as they attempt to recover the missing cocaine and cash. The series has stopped jumping around chronologically as much as the original series, but there are time jumps within each issue--so the story is not as linear as it had been earlier in Sunshine & Roses.

The last big event finds Beth sending Orson back to Baltimore to return to his former life. But he discovers that much has changed--their big heist actually made a difference. His old friend Chandra (the stripper) fills him in, and sends him back to Beth. Orson gifts her with his cash stash before he goes. And so the game is on for the final installment of the story.

Hello Mark and All. Thank you for having me here!

I got in on David Lapham's excellent series from the beginning and was hooked buying the individual issues up until the mid-20s, IIRC. Was reacquainted with my Stray Bullets: Sunshine & Roses TPB volume 1 purchased last year.

Re-reading it got me back into the world.  I've since ordered vols. 2 & 3 and pulled out my El Capitan Books TPB editions. (also own Uber Alles, Silverfish and Murder Me Dead hard bounds and have an eBay set of Young Liars TPBs in transit to me)

Anyway, I went searching about online for a discussion group and found Captain Comics. Mark, Jeff and others' issue synopses and the S.B. Wiki timeline - incredible effort! I Can't read too much of the timeline for spoilers from Sunshine & Roses, but will definitely scour that resource when I've read more of Lapham's newer stuff. Thank you again.

Yes, I re-read some of the earlier issues. I knew Spanish Scott died, but totally forgot it was by Orson's hand. As well as Orson and Nina's deaths. Bummer for those characters, but they do live on in the series as we eventually read in later issues. Good stuff to revisit. 

I appreciate these issue summaries, guys. Thanks!

"While Ricky Fish was Sleeping..."

Agreed on Lapham's ability to make scenes work.  I remember reading this issue, but don't recall much more about these characters later in the series. 


This is where I currently am while revisiting these early issues. It's good recalling these vignettes, but cannot recall where the new cast of characters wind up!  With spoilers abound, I cautiously tread these threads! :D

By the way, Amelia sort of resembles the pop sensation, Madonna, who would have her music debut a year later in '83. 


Mark Sullivan (Vertiginous Mod) said:

Stray Bullets #19: "Live Nude Girls!" is set in June 1982, Los Angeles. It's mainly about Amelia, who loses all faith in male fidelity over the course of the story. So much that she goes after married men, over and over, just to prove the point. Roger the cop turns her down (from Issue #17), which finally leads her to become a stripper.

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