This last Fourth of July I did something I hadn’t done in a long time. I read a bunch of comics all in one day. Not a lot of different types of comics but a single series. I always think to myself “I want to go back and re-read that whole comic book series” but I hardly ever do. This time I did. I picked “Stray Bullets” by David Lapham and it has forty one issues in volume one. This isn’t a review of “Stray Bullets” because the review should be obvious. I like it. I bought the series in the past and continue to buy the new issues as they come out. If I buy it then I like it. That’s my review. Now go check out the comic for yourself.

I’m writing more about the experience of sitting down and reading forty one issues of a comic. I didn’t read them all in a row without getting up. Instead I read a few, did something else for a bit, and then read few more. I read the first one around 8 AM and finished the forty first one about 11 PM.

“Stray Bullets” made it’s debut with a first issues that is cover dated March 1995. I wasn’t on board with it then but I began to hear some rumblings that it was a good book. I think I hesitated on it even after hearing good things about it. The first “Stray Bullets” issue I have is number twelve that’s dated January 1997. I though I bought an issue of it that was in the single digits but I must be misremembering. Either way I didn’t like the first issue of it that I read. It didn’t click with me.

The next issue I bought was number fifteen and that one is dated July 1998. I guess I wanted to give the series another try. It had been a year and a half since I read an issue and this issue was the beginning of a new story arc. I liked it and “Stray Bullets” has been on my pull list ever since. I even bought the oversized hardcovers of the first two story arcs that I missed. I liked them too. I have no idea why I didn’t like issue twelve the first time around.

By the time the third story arc was done I bought the oversized hardcover version of that one too. That was in 2001 and I read all three hardcovers in a row at around that time. That was the last time I read a bunch of “Stray Bullets” all at once. Twenty one issues. Fifteen years ago. Time sure does fly doesn’t it?

I like monthly comics. I enjoy their periodical nature. Some people complain that they don’t like monthly comics because they want the whole story right now, and I understand that, but that misses the point to me. Everyone has only one chance to read a comic as it comes out. And it’s a completely different reading experience. A new issue comes out, you read it, maybe reread it, talk about it, maybe talk or read about it online, and then the next issue comes out giving the previous issue new context. As each piece of the story is released new excitement is built. I find that fun. I also find it fun to read four or five different comic series each week. I enjoy the variety.

Of course I also like reading collected editions and back issues of comics but that’s a different reading experience. There is a finished product in front of me and I won’t be talking about it or pondering it with anyone until I finish reading it. And cliffhangers don’t work if you just have to turn the page to see what happens. That’s a little bit of a drawback. But with comics I bought off the shelf I have the memory of that cliffhanger. A little bit of that adrenaline can come back. Not so much with comics I’m reading for the first time in their collected form.

“Stray Bullets” number forty is dated October 2005 and then Lapham left us hanging until March 2014 when he wrapped up volume one with issue forty one and then launched a new volume of “Stray Bullets”. That means it’s been over a decade since I read issue forty. That’s a long time and one of the main things I noticed upon rereading this is that I had forgotten nearly all of the details of the story. Volumes two and three have been coming out steady since 2014 and they must have colored my memories of the original run.

The other thing that’s interesting is that “Stray Bullets” jumps around in time a bit. Most of the stories are from the early 1980s but some cam jump forward and back a bit. The stories that are fresh in my mind from volume 3 actually take place before the very first volume one stories. That was strange. But it was even stranger that it all seemed new to me. It had been fifteen years since I read those first twenty one issues and it felt like it. I would estimate that only about ten to twenty percent of the story felt familiar to me. I found that a little amazing.

Another thing I noticed is that the pace of the stories sped up a bit at the end. Maybe by issue thirty. I wouldn’t call the early issues dense or wordy by any stretch of the imagination but I found myself getting through the latter ones at a quicker pace. Hmmm… I just checked and that could have been because the issues were actually smaller at the end. Issue fifteen has twenty nine pages and issue forty has only nineteen. No wonder I was getting through them faster.

Overall it was quite a treat to get to read all forty one issues of “Stray Bullets” in one day. It’s a good series. In case you’re not familiar with it “Stray Bullets” is a crime series. There are recurring characters, one shot characters, and characters who get killed off. It’s all about how random crazy violence can affect a person’s life. This series is often about the bad guys. More often than not I’d say. Sometimes they get their just desserts and sometimes they don’t. Either way it’s a good comic. Give it a read.