Stray Bullets #30 Review: Unfocused and Hard to Engage With

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Lil' B and Boris are sent to Harry Creeper's School for the Reforming Arts, a school packed to the brim with underaged offenders who have to spend their days here learning to be a better part of society.

Unfortunately, the principal doesn't particularly like Lil' B and quickly recruits one of their older students to take Lil' B out. With her own wits and new friends, the Cosmic Princess and Descartes, Lil' B must survive the day and get (or avoid getting) a decent education.

Stray Bullets #30 cover by David Lapham
Stray Bullets #30 cover by David Lapham

This issue of Stray Bullets is a bit reminiscent of Danganrapa and a touch of Assassination Classroom (I may not be an anime or manga aficionado, but my friends are), as you may be able to tell from that plot summary. The Assassination Classroom bit mainly comes from how outwardly hostile the teachers are as well as the surrealist nature of the plot.

That surrealism, arguably, goes even farther in this comic. Since Stray Bullets deals in one-off stories, #30 doesn't need to establish a coherent set of rules for the story to follow. As such, you're left not knowing what the stakes are, what the rules are, or why you should care about Lil' B and her cohorts. As bizarre as Danganrapa and Assassination Classroom are, you more-or-less get a grasp of what is going on and what the rules of their particularly lethal schools are.

The same can't be said for Stray Bullets #30, which presents a bizarre Ned's Declassified School Survival Guide nightmare (lemme dust off that reference for you) that makes zero sense. Everyone present is a heinous person. The only thing provoking us to support Lil' B is the plot focus and the occasionally decent snark. Her friend, the Cosmic Princess, cries golden tears for some reason. Descartes boy never goes full Descartes after his introduction scene.

This could all function as a decent allegory of America's nightmarish public-school system if it focused itself just a little more. It doesn't though, and the only thing that reminds me of my time in that system is the occasional apathetic teacher. Surrealism and allegory is a very difficult balance to strike, and Stray Bullets #30 just doesn't hit it.

The art is alright. It isn't especially pretty, but it's not awful either. The lack of color doesn't add anything to the experience. In fact, this seems like a setting that could really use the visual aid a wacky color palette could bring.

In the end, Stray Bullets #30 just doesn't impress. It has a bizarre story with hateful characters and a meandering plot that starts from and goes nowhere. The art isn't bad, but it doesn't help the experience either. I can't recommend this one, and you should give it a pass.

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About Joshua Davison

Josh is a longtime super hero comic fan and an aspiring comic book and fiction writer himself. He also trades in videogames, Star Wars, and Magic: The Gathering, and he is also a budding film buff. He's always been a huge nerd, and he hopes to contribute something of worth to the wider geek culture conversation. He is also happy to announce that he is the new Reviews Editor for Bleeding Cool. Follow on Twitter @joshdavisonbolt.
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