As endemic as violence is to mainstream comics, it's rare when you see a representation of it that inspires an appropriate level of shock. That's to be expected in superhero comics, where the gap between art and reality is wider, but even in books that maintain a closer relationship with the truth there are only a few books that portray violence in an un-stylized, un-sensationalized manner that still conveys how jarring it really is.
There are some great examples, from Scalped to the work of Johnny Craig (still a little sensationalized, but he gets a pass) to almost everything Garth Ennis has ever written. Even among that company, what David Lapham does in Stray Bullets is unique.
When discussing the oeuvre of David Lapham, the comic that comes up again and again is obviously Stray Bullets. As great as Stray Bullets is, though, it tends to overshadow the rest of Lapham's body of work rather unfairly in some cases. Despite the several very good comics that Lapham has produced besides his most famous title – including the incomplete Young Liars, the raucous Juice Squeezers, and of course WWF Battlemania – none can match the near-mythic level of quality and reputation of Stray Bullets, and tend to just get left out of the conversation.
The new trade paperback collection of Murder Me Dead, available July 23 from Image Comics, could help change that trend. A dark, stirring, and emotionally manipulative noir about self-destruction, lies, and guilt, it may be the best “other” Lapham comic in his catalog.
Google “Best Crime Comics of All Time” and you’ll find a lot of lists, includinga couple fromComicsAlliance, filled with many of the usual suspects: Criminal, Sin City, Torso, Scalped, and Darwyn Cooke’s Parker adaptations appear several times, alongside the archetypal series that defined the genre like Crime Does Not Pay, Dick Tracy (before Chester Gould started sending Tracy off to adventures on the Moon), and Crime SuspenStories. These are all undisputed classics in the genre that should be read by everyone, but notably, criminally absent (sorry, couldn’t help it) from every one of the lists that I came across was David Lapham’s Stray Bullets.
Every. Single. One.
Now that the title is returning, with new stories from Image Comics after nearly a decade-long absence, we may be able to rectify these egregious errors. Stray Bullets is the best crime comic of all time. And I will injury-to-the-eye-motif anybody who says different.
Cited by many readers and comic professionals alike as an under appreciated classic, David Lapham's work on his creator owned crime series Stray Bullets has always received high praise. As such, it came as a bit of a blow to the series' followers, and Lapham himself, when he revealed six years ago that the book was going on an indefinite hiatus. Lapham, who first launched the title in 1995 and published it himself, along with Maria Lapham, under his El Capitan label, announced at the time that he'd be focusing mostly on work for hire projects for the foreseeable future.
But, following the release of a teaser from Image Comics yesterday, it has now been revealed that Stray Bullets will continue with new content beginning in March, with Lapham taking the title over to the publisher. On March 12, Image will simultaneously release Stray Bullets #41, Stray Bullets: The Über Alles Edition -- which will collect issues 1-41 -- and Stray Bullets: Killers #1, the first issue of a new story arc. Further, digital versions of every previous issue of the series are available now via Image Comics' website and Comixology, with the first four issues being free.
Lapham joined a conference call with members of the press to discuss the announcement, in which he stated that ever since Stray Bullets stopped, he's "been trying to figure out a way to do it again."
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