THIS REVIEW OF ‘EVE STRANGER’ TPB CONTAINS SPOILERS.
by Clyde Hall. Notes to self aren’t lighthearted exclamations for Eve Stranger; they’re real. They guide her, though she doesn’t necessarily follow her own directions. They keep her alive. More, against all odds, they provide a meaningful nucleus for a life worth clinging onto.
A final jewel in the impressive Black Crown imprint at IDW, the collected Eve Stranger teases endorphin spigots tantalized by a first encounter with Memento or The Long Kiss Goodnight. Eve is stuck in a recurring loop. Once a week, she wakes up with no memories, a gun on her bed, and a notebook containing information she’s written down previously bringing her reset self up to speed. It’s organized from the things she needs to know immediately, to elements ongoing and consistent in a life where little is either.
She’s a superspy operative with mad skills. But she has a rare blood disorder that turns lethal in one week. And an antidote she takes staves off death. That drug also robs her short-term memory; specifically, recollections of the week before her injection. Still, the nanotech curative bequeaths abilities akin to ‘photographic reflexes’, sniping a Marvel mutant descriptor.
This rare drug is doled freely, weekly, at different locations and by overseers determined to preserve Eve’s health. Their motivations? Industrial-sized fees hiring out her services. Oh, and before Eve relocates to the next antidote-hosting hostel? Her assignment here must be completed, whatever she’s been contracted to do.
It’s a tale of enslavement. Enslavement to a drug, enslavement to people interested in the economic rewards Eve nets them. Her only freedoms consist of keeping in contact with herself via notes and deciding if she’ll die rather than carry out her latest assignment. Darkness clearly courses below the narrative surface in tandem with building dread. Eve’s lot is maddening. But with her notes, she makes it more palatable than it should be.
David Barnett scripts and Philip Bond renders the five-issue run with an equilibrium that gives Eve reasons to be joyful even if it’s in one-week, non-compiling bursts. She has support. Her missions involve risk, but they aren’t all assassinations and wetwork. Rescues and flights of fancy for those with commodious means are also possibilities. The work can be fun.
Throughout the volume, this bright Britpop (a perfect descriptive phrase applied by DoomRocket’s Jarrod Jones) spirit buoys Eve Stranger above mere Noir. Grunge, grit, and grime turn gleeful through Barnett & Bond.
Dirty doings brewing? Like a kettle while the pot warms. Yet, deplorable depths of humanity aren’t Barnett’s destination. Love is. Better natures eventually rise to the top in Eve’s roiling exploits, with love chancing everything. Love that’s odds-defying in the forms of BFF giant gorilla girls. Jetpacks. Gunfire that “Pew! Pew!”s. All orbiting around one remarkable young woman inspiring others to risk large with her.
Her situation’s altered by the end of the volume; any second Eve series will have portions of established premises shifted. Eve’s different future would be filled with different troubles. The wind-up feels slightly rushed in establishing this, her altered dynamic necessitating new threats and goals inferred before, but brought into fixed, full focus by the final act.
Art hardwires the mind. For me, Batman = Aparo. Spider-Man = Ditko. Henceforth, Sweet Toddlers equates to Philip Bond. His art delivers touchingly human visages in conflict with the draconian system exploiting Eve. Humanity zenithed in huggable babies, from young Eve to passerby babes in prams. Sorting through the issues, the innocence and wonderment captured in a Bond child causes one to linger, admire, emotionally reach out for them.
Bond’s a duelist whose shorthand character studies mesh with his detailed humanistic profiles. They should clash, the cartoonish and the textured—they would if attempted by others. Instead, his caricatures charm and his closeups rivet; magically holding the eye by doing everything short of gulping air.
The backup feature each issue, “Eve Stranger, Ace Reporter”, begs the question from its protagonist, “Am I a reporter who dreams about being a secret agent, or a secret agent who dreams about being a reporter?” Barnett surrealistically explores the notion and includes bonus riffs on the primary tale. Liz Prince’s art nearly achieves for cats what Philip Bond does for babies, felines bunting the Fourth Wall.
I’ll miss Black Crown. Eve Stranger is the epitome of the superb and sublime combinations Shelly Bond steadfastly coaxed forth from the imprint. Uniquely its own, its unexpected warmth starkly contrasts my other favorite title, House Amok. But the spiritual conduit running through all their offerings was consistently fine storytelling combined with breathtaking craftsmanship. Let their final expression leave you hypoxic, wishing for more.
Black Crown /IDW Publishing / $17.99
Written by David Barnett.
Art by Philip Bond and Liz Prince.
Colors by Eva De La Cruz.
Letters by Jane Heir.
Edited by Shelly Bond.
8.5 out of 10
‘Eve Stranger’ TPB is available now. Contact your LCS to order a copy of your own.
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