I have long felt that any good online discussion of a comic book series requires at least two active participants... not just two people posting, but two actually reading along... one to provide "play-by-play" and the other "color commentary." Tracy and I have considered leading a "husband and wife" discussion for some time, but we never could get the timing right. I first alluded to it in 2008 (I remember specifically), but I didn't announce the series. At the time it would have been Terry Moore's Strangers in Paradise, but that topic has now expanded to all the titles in the SIP-verse. With 3 issues in volume one, 13 in two and 90 in three (volume three comprising eight parts itself), Strangers in Paradise would be ambitious enough, but we also hope to cover...

Echo - 30 issues

Rachel Rising - 42 issues

Motor Girl - 10 issues

Strangers in Paradise XXV - 10 issues

Five Years - 10 issues

Ever - 1 issue

Serial - 10 issues

We are approaching this with no set structure or timeframe involved. An issue at a time? A volume/series at a time? An issue a day? A volume/series/part a week? We don't know. All we know right now is that we plan to start with SIP v1 (the original three-issue limited series) sometime this weekend. the more people who participate the better the discussion is, so we invite as many of you to participate as possible, whether you read along with us or not. 

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ISSUE #2: This issue is narrated by Zoe and we learn more about her than we ever have before 9which still isn't much).

The story begins in Russia where Rachel has gone to get a list of names of the Russian scientists working on the Phi bomb. Her contact double crosses her but Zoe is her backup. she cuts his Achilles tendon with a pruning shears and they roll him for the names. He fights back and both he and Rachel go into the freezing waters of the canal. Rachel prevails, but Zoe is angry that she didn't get to kill him. (It was her job.) As they are walking away, an assassin slices Rachel's femoral artery. Zoe follows him into a church. He is a priest and she kills him. Ma Malai is there to receive him. 

I just read every post I made about Five Years to "What Comics Have You Read Today?" I pretty much undersold it (because no one else was reading it that I knew of), but I did say I could make a case for it being the best comic book on the market. I think I am doing that now (at least to myself is no one else).

ISSUE #3: This issue is narrated by Tambi. Tambi meets with Ivy Raven and Julie Martin (from Echo) and convinces them to join her team. In Russia, Rachel is in the morgue and Zoe is in KGB custody for disemboweling a priest (there's video). Rachel revives in front of the coroner. Tambi calls Katchoo, tells her about Rachel and Zoe and asks her to join the team. Katchoo agrees to talk to her. Tambi is calling from their porch.

ISSUE #4: This issue is narrated by Katchoo. And when I say, "This issue is narrated by...," there's a lot I'm leaving unsaid. Each issue has its own distinct voice. Tambi left at 4:00AM. Katchoo has been sitting on the beach ever since, staring at the waves. she knows she has to go if her family is ever to be safe. Inside the house, Francine walks around in a daze. Mike and Sam watch from a distance and realize that she'd been "called." Back inside now, Katchoo and Francine share a tense goodbye.

In a Washington Senate committee meeting, General Cade is being grilled. In the aftermath of the Large Hadron collider (LHD) incident, Cade was relieved of his command and decommissioned. Now he has been reinstated and promoted. He reveals that the Phi Project was part of a larger operation known as Project Kippler.

In Russia, the coroner opens a drawer with a blonde woman inside (not Rachel). The woman has rope burns around her neck. The coroner takes a knife and inflicts a wound in the cadaver's thigh exactly like Rachel's. Rachel is watchjing and the coroner says that she must vanish.

Back in Hawaii, Tambi has returned to take Katchoo away. Francine gives her a look, walks up to her and slaps her as hard as she can across the face. She makes her promise to bring Katchoo back and Tambi agrees. Then Francine kisses her in the chin. After a tearful goodbye, Tambi drives away with Katchoo, leaving Francine, Marie, Libby, Sam and the girls behind.

I've looked up "Kippler" on-line and most of the definitions are things I wouldn't dare post here.

That's interesting. I wouldn't have thought it was anything other than a surname.

ISSUE #5: the first half of this issue is narrated by Zoe. she has multiple fantasies about killing Vlasi, the KGB agent assigned to her. He takes her down to the morgue when the coroner shows her her "Aunt Rachel's" body. Zoe, of course, immediately realizes that the woman is not Rachel and immediately shoots the coroner a dirty look. Zoe doesn't know exactly what's going on here, but decides to play along. She identifies the woman as "poor Auntie Rachel," all the while glaring at the coroner. Vlasi asks Zoe if she knows the cause of death. "She bled out. Sliced femoral artery," Zoe answers. "Show me," says Vlasi. Zoe looks questioningly at the coroner, who maintains a poker face and waves an inviting hand. The corpse has a wound identical to Rachel's. Vlasi reveals that the thumb drive Rachel got from the KGB's "traitorous employee" was retrieved from her pocket at the scene. He also wants to offer Zoe a job.

The second half of the issue is narrated by Tambi. Her philosophy is that the only way to stop the Phi bomb is through negotiation, conversation. She and Cherry Hammer parachute down to Senator Burd's mountaintop chalet. While Tambi questions the senator about the Phi bomb, Cherry rigs some explosives of her own. As they are leaving, the house is blown to bits. Elsewhere, General Cade is passed out in bed with a hooker. Katchoo is also there, and she has just used the general's cell phone to call Senator Burd at the exact time of the explosion.

"And that's how you start a conversation," narrates Tambi.

ISSUE #6: This issue is narrated by Rachel. (Actually, the early issues were "narrated" through out; these more recent one begin with two- or three-page vignettes.) The coroner who saved Rachel from the KGB and who is sheltering her in her home is named Yana. 

On Christmas day, three U.S. Army soldiers come to collect General Cade at his home.

In a six-page sequence, Professor Foster, the key scientist developing the Psi bomb, is snow skiing. Too bad Stephanie Kelly has set a wire in his path. He skis into the wire and the resultant fall breaks his neck. She takes his fingerprints and leaves him in the falling snow, which soon completely covers his body. that doesn't stop the carrion birds from finding it, however.

At the gym, one of those dorky guys with a super-short haircut and an excessively bushy beard sets his sites on Tambi working out. He picks the station next to hers, but all it takes is a single withering glance to send him on his way. As he leaves, he passes Casey (haven't seen her in a while!) on her way in. Casey encourages Tambi to be more friendly, but it doesn't exactly work out. ("You want me to say hello... to a total stranger. Crazy.") 

Back in their room (they seem to be in a hotel), Tambi's cell phone rings but she ignores it. Casey picks it up and answers. A Russian woman is on the other end of the line and she identifies herself as Tambi's gravedigger. "For every person you send to me I will dig a grave and bury them... Three women, three graves." Casey overhears. She knows about Rachel and Zoe, but who is the third?


ISSUE #7: The opening narration for this issue is by Katchoo. She arrives in Russia after 31 hours without sleep and checks into her hotel. No sooner does she enter the room than a hooded figure (the "gravedigger" I think) pushes her out of the five story window! She lands in the snow and, miraculously, survives. While she is fighting for her life, David appears beside her and she has an out-of-body experience. They talk until Ma Malai appears on the scene and David forcibly slams her "astral self" back into her body, forcing her awake. She looks across the courtyard and Ma Malai is gone.

Katchoo's attacker emerges from the hotel. All we can see of her face is the eyes, visible below the hood and above the scarf. She has the eyes of a cat. She sees the spot in the snow where Katchoo landed and a set of footprints leading away. She follows the tracks across the street and into a park. the woman unloads her automatic but misses. Katchoo dives for cover behind a tree. As  the woman reloads to fire from point blank range, Zoe steps out from behind the tree and clocks her with a baseball bat.

"Hey, Katchoo! Wassup? Welcome to Russia!"

ISSUE #8: No narration this issue, but the first eleven pages feature Stephanie and are silent. Now that Professor Foster is dead, Stephanie waits for the housekeeper to leave and puts on a special pair of gloves with Foster's fingerprints to gain access. As she enters, a crow observes from a nearby tree. Foster lived an opulent lifestyle, including fine art and closets full of expensive clothes. Stephanie searches until she finds a safe, which she uses his fingerprints to open. Inside is a gold bar, a stack of cash, a cylinder and several other items I cannot identify. Stephanie finds an ornately carved box with a scroll inside and takes it. 

As she steps outside, the ground and all the trees are filled with crows. They attack her. The strap of her bag is severed and she is forced to leave it behind. A falcon swoops down and carries it high into the sky. Suddenly a shot rings out and the bird (what's left of it) and the bag fall to the ground. Stephanie is badly scratched up, but makes her way to where the bag has fallen. Watching from the rooftop is Lilith. 

As Stephanie is walking away, tree roots spring from the ground and hold her tight. Lilith takes the box with the scroll and asks where the rest of it is, but Stephanie maintains she doesn't know about another half. Lilith uses the roots to break Stephanie's arm, drag her beneath the ground and throw her back up. Eventually Stephanie breaks and say she gave it to Darcy. Lilith does not know who "Darcy" is, and Stephanie passes out.

Back in Russia, Zoe has brought Katchoo to Yana's apartment. Yana has given Katchoo a sedative so she's asleep. Yana has no friends, no family, and Rachel is the only one she has even spoken to in a year. she tells Rachel, "Surviving a fall is not unheard of--but surviving Babochka*... that never happens." Elsewhere, a uniformed guard finds his partner with a knife sticking through his body from behind. the body is propped against a wall, and the other guard rushes off for help. The dead body topples to the side revealing Zoe beneath it. "Okay, I definitely did not think that one through," she says. The other guard comes back, wondering aloud who did this and they went. Zoe is standing directly behind him with "Jack" in her hand.

*Apparently, "Babochka" means "butterfly."

ISSUE #9: This issue's opening narration is from the point of view of the soldier Zoe just stabbed.

Zoe says, "You're still alive? Sorry about that. Would you like me to finish you off or would you rather bleed out watching the snow? Totally up to you?" She goes on to philosophize for a couple of more pages about (among other things) a boyfriend (or maybe a girlfriend?)... or maybe she'll just get a dog. (He probably doesn't even speak English.) That may not have been "Jack" she used. I think she killed them both with their own short swords. In any case, she is now armed with both of them.

The building the soldiers were guarding is a very exclusive prison, built to house a single prisoner: Sasha Sokolav, the Russian expert on Psi technology. Leaving the swords leaning up against the building, she tricks her way inside by pretending to be a child lost in the storm. The desk guard lets her in and she forces him to take her to Sokolav's room at gunpoint. As soon as she sees him, she gets a schoolgirl crush. She shoots the guard who escorted her up, then hands a cell phone to Sokolav. It is Tambi on the other end. She is with Vijay Narayanan (remember him? Julie's Martin's assistant  from Echo?) and they convince him to defect. 

Back at Yana's apartment, Katchoo is having the same nightmare she had in issue #1. She wakes up ti find she has a broken rib and a concussion, but they need to get away. Rachel convinces Tambi to let them take Yana along, too. As the three women are leaving the building, they are confronted by Babochka.

ISSUE #10: Babochka's gun is still smoking from shooting their driver. She thinks Yana (Kuznetsov, BTW) has somehow brought Rachel and Katchoo back from the dead. All the while they are talking, Yana is slipping a knife from inside her sleeve. A cop comes on the scene and orders Babochka to drop her weapon, but she quickly shoots him through the head. They talk a while longer, then everything happens at once.  Yana slashes her knife across Babochka's wrist just as Babochka fires. Babochka's shot kills Yana instantly, then she quickly bleeds out herself. Tambi and Katchoo drive off leaving four bodies to be found by the authorities.

Meanwhile, Zoe and Sokolav are involved in a high speed pursuit. Zoe is driving. Tambi and Casey are coordinating as both cars race through the snow to a private airfield. Katchoo and Rachel arrive first. they are greeted by Julie, while Ivy is inside the plane ready to take off. Julie shakes Rachel's hand and a loud electrical "krack!" is discharged. That has never happened before, but Rachel's rope burn has disappeared and her eyes are no longer red. Zoe and Sokolav's car appears being chased by another, but Julie is able to fire off a bolt and take out the pursuing car. Beyond that, they escape without incident.

Three months later, Katchoo is back living on the beach in Hawaii with Francine and the kids. Katchoo now has a scar across her right eye from her fall. "Sasha and Vijay have convinced their countries to work together to put a lid on the Pandora's box they opened." "But God help us," Katchoo thinks, "if they ever find the other half of Cleopatra's scroll." In the "post-credits sequence", Stephanie digs up a box with a scroll in it, buried shallowly atop Darcy Parker's grave.

As I already indicated, when I saw "Final Issue" on the front cover, it took me a little bit by surprise. this story ended rather abruptly. Sasha and Vijay just "convinced" their countries to work together? And what about this "third half" of Cleopatra's scroll? Lilith destroyed the first half in her farmhouse. The second half was retrieved from Professor Foster in this series. Now there is another "half" now in Stephanie's possession? 

Also, I bought the "Covid 19 Edition" of #10, the only one I thought there was. It has a "cute" cover; it is the same as #1, but with KN-95 masks drawn over all the characters' faces. A week or two later, the standard edition shipped. I would have much preferred the standard edition.

While I've been reading comic books all day, Tracy has been doing our taxes. As soon as she's done doing the laundry, she needs to catch up reading and commenting on this series. (Yes, I do feel guilty about that.) 

Zoe is too focused on losing the kill to Rachel and joking around. Rachel is mortally wounded and Zoe runs after the man to kill him, leaving Rachel on the ground. A hooded person looks over Rachel as she picks her pocket, taking the list of Russian names. 

Jeff of Earth-J said:

ISSUE #2: This issue is narrated by Zoe and we learn more about her than we ever have before 9which still isn't much).

The story begins in Russia where Rachel has gone to get a list of names of the Russian scientists working on the Phi bomb. Her contact double crosses her but Zoe is her backup. she cuts his Achilles tendon with a pruning shears and they roll him for the names. He fights back and both he and Rachel go into the freezing waters of the canal. Rachel prevails, but Zoe is angry that she didn't get to kill him. (It was her job.) As they are walking away, an assassin slices Rachel's femoral artery. Zoe follows him into a church. He is a priest and she kills him. Ma Malai is there to receive him. 

Much too late for me to catch up and read along, but I thought I should mention a current Humble Bundle offer: The Ultimate Terry Moore Collection. I think it's all of his comics collections: 45 e-comics in all. I bought the whole thing, so I know I can get back to it whenever I want. Lots of stuff here I have never read before, including a good chunk of Strangers In Paradise (I dropped out a ways in the first time).

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