I will most certainly be SPOILING!
For fans of gritty, true crime style stories, I would highly suggest Stray Bullets written by David Lapham. Even amongst the first few panels, the reader gets a sense of the setting, only a few degrees less adult than Frank Miller’s Sin City. The largest element that distinguishes this issue from any of the aforementioned series is the choice of main character.
Eli is a young boy with one of those dysfunctional homes that is stuck together through mostly resignation. Somehow, he is getting into a strip club, but we will get into that a bit later.
Eli finds himself hanging out with his friends in the back yard, chores discarded, having a discussion about breasts that would rival anything out of an boys adolescent memories. For a few moments, he is king of the pack, after showing off drawing of breasts that he has seen at the strip club, and all of his friends want an original nipple page by Eli.
Eli is called inside by his father, who lies about going to work, so he can go to the strip club, which Eli tags along for without his father’s knowledge. He folds a towel so the baby can drink her bottle, and hides amongst the carpet samples in his father’s car.
Eli spends a lot of time just watching, and we get to see his father playing his games behind his wife’s back. Eli notices his friend’s sister is one of the strippers. We are offered a glimpse into the less-than-lawful side of the club just before Yummy Eli’s former babysitter and friend’s sister, propositions him for a private dance.
As with any guy who has just been recognized with his hand in the cookie jar, the man leaves the club like a bat out of hell.
Terrified at the prospect of being left behind, Eli breaks cover and sprints towards the parking lot, just barely missing his father’s car peeling out onto the street.
Eli is almost subjected to the fumbling advances of Ronnie, the bouncer. If not for the intervention of Scottie, the rest of this comic would have been a lot darker. Scottie ends up driving Eli home and bonds with the boy a little on the way. In the midst of what is a very excellent dialogue between a rough man of the world, and a mostly innocent preteenager, Scottie pushes Eli down below the dashboard. There is a small exchange of gunfire and then Eli peeks, just in time to see Scottie run a man down with his car.
Back home, Scottie and Eli exchange goodbyes, and Eli promises that he won’t tell anyone about the “Bang Bang Shit.” The boy doesn’t even get grounded, as his father hasn’t even noticed that he was missing.
Things get interesting as Eli begins drawing Scottie as a superhero. This small amount of hero-worship promises to be an interesting dynamic for the boy.
The next day, Eli is completing his chores, and offers everyone their pictures he had promised the day before, mentions his friend’s older sister, and is promptly beaten up for it.
In the aftermath of the beating, Eli is going about his chores, taking care of his sister and trying to unbloody his nose, when he hears his father on the phone. What follows is a conversation equal parts shady and fear. Written just on the edge, Lapham successfully makes you wonder at Eli’s father’s motivations for the phone call. Is he trying to bribe her to be quiet, trying to proposition her, or something worse. After Eli retreats from the room, his father shows up, telling Eli to let his mother know he will be home late. The next day, Eli sprints home to find both of his parents there, and something has happened.
Teresa, who we know as Yummy from the club, is dead.
Trying to get some time with Scottie at the wake, Eli talks about his father and his conversation with the girl. Scottie gets very serious and leaves the wake. Eli remembers his drawing of his new hero and rushes out of the building to find him. When he sees him, Ronnie and Scottie are investigating his father’s car. Eli realizes the danger and cries, “I take it back!”
Two days later, Eli and his father are about to go for a car ride, and the Father is trying to get Eli to talk. Almost before the conversation can take on any meaning, A sports car slams into their car, rolling them. Scottie gets out of the car, walks over to the father lying broken and choking halfway out the window of the car. Scottie cuts out his eyes and walks away, without a second look at Eli hanging unconcously, (at least) from the back seat of the car.
This read was excellent. It had some grit, and a compelling story. The main character being the boy caught up in everything really made this stand out from the other true crime books out there. I fully intend to add this to my pull, and if you’re a fan of crime dramas, you should be too.
My rating: 4.5 / 5