One of the (many, many, many) things I love about David Lapham’s “Stray Bullets: Killers” is how he manages to infuse a sense of dread into his comics. You can’t help but wonder at what point something horrific is going to show up with no warning, how everything is going to come crashing down and make matters worse. That’s especially true in “Stray Bullets: Killers” #6, which presents Virginia Applejack’s relationship with Eli going surprisingly well — so when is that going to change?
Readers learn a lot more about not only Virginia and Eli this issue, but also Virginia’s Aunt Jane and her deceased son Michael. The six issues of “Stray Bullets: Killers” have done a great job of giving us a focused location and cast of characters, letting us watch their lives intersect and affect one another. The death of Jane’s husband Jack from earlier in the series continues to hover heavily over the comic, and Eli’s acceptance to MICA threatens to have everything start tumbling down around Virginia and Jane. Especially now, as Eli wants to let his art teacher Paul know, and that’s someone whom Virginia and Michael had a bit of a past with.
What’s great about “Stray Bullets: Killers” #6 is how even if this is the only issue of the series you’d ever read, you’d understand what’s going on and feel the ticking time bomb inching along its merry little way. From the disastrous encounter that gets Virginia roofied, to the confrontation between Paul and Virginia, it’s a perfect storm of bad news. And then, just when you think you know exactly how badly this is going to collapse, David Lapham holds onto the rug and tugs it in an entirely different direction than you might have expected. You can almost hear the “Gotcha!” in his voice, even as the progression of story remains faithful to everything that he’s set up until this point. That’s part of the fun of this comic; Lapham doesn’t ever cheat or mislead the reader, but he’s still able to surprise us.
The art in “Stray Bullets: Killers” #6 is as good as ever. The 4×2 grid on each page continues to work well, zooming in on faces for tight emotional shots, and then pulling back when necessary to give us a greater view of the area. Lapham knows when to alter the grid as necessary, collapsing the borders between four of the panels as we enter Paul’s house so that we can see the clutter and piles everywhere, for example. It’s especially powerful when Virginia enters Paul’s room with the stabbed model ship; seeing it upside down with the x-acto knife sticking out of its hull all of those years later, that silent moment has a beautiful amount of portent as we see Virginia slowly approaching its hulking form. And in the confrontation that follows, well, Lapham’s ability to draw all of the feelings rushing through the participants’ faces (fear, anger, surprise) continues to hammer home the ideas in his script.
“Stray Bullets: Killers” #6 is another reminder of how great it is to have Lapham drawing his signature series once more. There’s so much to love about this comic, and it continues to move from one strength to another. If you’ve been wondering about the world of “Stray Bullets,” this is as great a place as any to dip in and see for yourself on what you’ve been missing. Check it out.