When I first cracked this volume open it was late at night and I figured I’d read a chapter or two before going to bed. Around an hour later I’ve finished the entire volume and found myself too wired to sleep. Much like the cocaine that Orson, Nina, and Kretch are partaking in at the end, “Stray Bullets” is a helluva drug. The first volume of “Sunshine & Roses” was absolutely worth the wait to read it in collected form and “Change of Plans” gives every indication that this story is going to be a wild ride right to the end.
That’s because the narrative is fueled by the intoxicating mix of guts, courage, stupidity, incompetence, and dumb luck that the main characters possess in abundance. (Who are in turn being fueled by pills and vodka.) Beth and Orson have a plan to rob the biggest mobster in Baltimore of both a ton of cash and Beth’s best friend Nina who is the mobster’s mistress. The problem is that it’s a plan that’s as awful as it is crazy and while they eventually realize this, the unstable Kretch eventually reveals himself to be holding all the leverage here. So it’s up to Beth and Orson to rob a strip joint from under the nose of Spanish Scott, Dez, and some guys who’d be fine with just killing them as opposed to watching the pair drown in their own blood.
“Realistic” isn’t the right word to describe “Stray Bullets,” but when the series is firing on all cylinders there’s an uncanny believability to everything happening on the page. Creator David Lapham has such a grounded, disciplined style that he can deliver a scenario that has Orson’s wrist being snapped by Monster, only for the boy to wrap it up with duct tape and cajole the oversexed Rose to chase Monster’s car, then crash into it and then drag the thug off of its winshield and into a shopping cart that they wheel over to a gas station and demand a new car at gunpoint and have it not only be a gripping read but seem credible at the same time. Ordinary people finding themselves in insane underworld circumstances has always been a hallmark of this series and this volume perfectly continues that tradition. Right up to the end which serves as both a comedown for the high action of the previous seven issues and a ramping up of the drama as it careens off to exciting new places.