Stray Bullets Killers #4

David Lapham

SPOILER ALERT

I will most certainly be SPOILING!

Okay. I may be a little dense but this issue is the first time that I realized that the 18 year old Eli in this series is the same as the young Eli who was instrumental in getting his father killed in issue #1. This implied connection between all of the stories has made reading Stray Bullets Killers a remarkably satisfying read.

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This month, we return to Virginia and Eli and their blossoming relationship. The realistic, humiliating, and cliché situation where they are necking in the car and a police man finds them is a lighthearted way to start a story in a series that doesn’t tend towards lighthearted very well. The two make plans for some more “adult” time in a more private location. She intends to scope it out and sends Eli to get condoms. Once more, cliché lends itself to a more sympathetic story with Eli being too embarrassed to buy condoms from a store with a cashier. In an attempt to avoid humiliation, Eli heads to a restaurant with a vending machine in the bathroom.

Here is where you should begin to get angry. Eli is blackmailed into giving up his leg to buy his cousin’s silence and all it gains him is mockery. When he finally gets back to Virginia, it’s been over an hour and she is unhappy. Finally, the two of them find their moment together.

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The house that they are in is the same house that her finger-cutting former associate used to live in. She shows off a pistol that is hidden in the house before sharing with her the story of how he got the condoms. She basically tells him to man up and then, they are back at “it.”

Eli goes home and wants to introduce Virginia to his mother for real and she brings up sex in one of those conversations we all dreaded as a teenager. The next day, the mother clearly tries to make it impossible for Eli to see Virginia, but he naively doesn’t see it and brings her along on his chores. When he brings his mother home to reveal that Virginia has been watching his little sister, his mother attacks her. Eli defends her and dashes out of the house.  The lovebirds spend the better part of the week hiding out in the house they used for privacy until Eli has some doubts and Virginia, obviously hurt, suggests they take a break.

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From here on, Eli feels trapped in his own life and you can see the panel where he decides he can’t live that way. He tries to call Virginia and she refuses to talk to him. That refusal drives him to his knees in a crippling downward spiral that few outside of the decade of adolescence can feel. He goes back to the house, smokes the joint he was given for his initial embarrassment at the restaurant, and prepares to kill himself wit the gun. He forgets to turn off the safety.

Virginia walks in and in his shock he shoots himself.

Virginia had show up to remember their week of happiness just like Eli, although presumably without the suicidal tenancies. They both admit to loving each other and it revealed that the bullet hit his fake leg.

This issue was timeless in the way it was told, touching on a lot of the discord of the formative years, first love, etc. The best part of this issue for me, however, was the happy ending that we haven’t been trained to expect in this title. While a complete tale in it’s own right, issue #4 feels like it is another layer of braiding in a story that is getting increasingly complex. Next month is sure to drag me in just a little farther.

My rating: 4.5 / 5

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