by David Lapham
A new series within the Stray Bullets universe brings in an interesting new character. Sunshine and Roses, the new arc from David Lapham, introduces readers to Kretchmeyer. The new arc is filled with a lot of what fans have come to expect from Lapham and the series, but there is certainly a kick to this opening issue. Lapham covers a lot of ground in this opening chapter, and sets up readers for what looks to be a very exciting and very brutal new story.
Right away, the story starts by introducing readers to its new central characters. Lapham uses a party setting to bring readers in and the environment, even in the quick introduction, is this false sense of levity and fun. Immediately, Lapham takes readers out of this calm environment and into something much more severe. In an instant, this individual who was just introduced is sprinting into a building and to the roof, cursing and panting. It’s incredible to witness this sequence without a shred of information. All the reader knows is that this man is in a hurry, presumably late for something. And then with a page turn, that thing becomes clear and the roller coaster of emotions spikes. In a mere few pages, Lapham has hooked readers into his world, and whether the reader is one who has followed Stray Bullets for a while or brand new, the level of engagement is phenomenal. This is raw emotion. It’s a wild few pages, and Lapham is brilliantly in control of his craft.
The story continues to jump about over the course of the issue, between a few major characters and, at time, skipping days and weeks. The first issue of Sunshine and Roses covers a significant bit of ground and could be just as easily decompressed into a full arc. Lapham, instead, condenses the tale and, as a result, every page is packed with story, world building, and character development. Kretchmeyer has set things in motion in this issue and clearly the impact of his actions has rippled through this entire community. The top spot has opened up and everyone is in motion trying to secure it and find out just what happened. Meanwhile Kretchmeyer is anchoring himself within this system through his relationship with Beth. It is unclear if that is part of a scheme or a secondary plot for much of the story. New readers to Stray Bullets may catch small interactions or visual cues that Lapham includes that seem a bit odd. Because Kretchmeyer looks like a central player, Beth’s involvement seems ancillary. But including scenes where she knows the names of some of the major players, or having her answer the door with a gun in her hand implies there is a lot more to this than what has been introduced in issue one.
As the first issue wraps up, Lapham reaches a climax that feels like it could be the final part of a six-part story. Instead, the moment is merely the beginning. There is a lot that is unexpected about the construction of Stray Bullets. From the impressive development of the characters to the structure of the storytelling, Sunshine and Roses #1 is magnificent to experience. New readers may not find the book as friendly as Lapham might suggest. But with patience, it is certainly crafted well enough to adopt a new audience. Not only that, but the amount of subtlety infused through Lapham’s understated art style and panels make for an even better second read.