Mike Manley again, if you’re reading this after about the end of July 2022. D D Degg at The Daily Cartoonist reports that Manley’s work for the weekday strip should resume the 25th of July. Sunday strips, produced farther in advance, will likely take a little longer.
Meanwhile, Scott Cohn, comic book artist with a lot of Marvel and DC work, has been filling in. Cohn has also been doing fill-in work on The Phantom. Cohn has been putting glorious black-and-white prints of his Phantom work on his DeviantArt gallery.
So this should catch you up to mid-July 2022 in Francesco Marciuliano and Mike Manley and Scott Cohn’s Judge Parker. If you’re reading this after about October 2022 or more news about the strip breaks I should have a more useful essay here. Now to catch up.
1 May – 17 July 2022.
So as sometimes happens the comic strip did its own pretty good plot recap, the 26th of June. The Sunday strip has the vibe of something put together to give the artist time to catch up, but it does also advance the story. And it makes a good jumping-off point. There are two major threads going on right now. Let me take them separately.
Randy Parker has readjusted to his normal life fitfully at best. Mostly he wants to not talk about the year he spent on the lam with April Parker and her mother. When Alan Parker insists on talking about how April emotionally abused Randy he throws his father out of the house. This sets Alan to fighting with his wife when she tries to get him to acknowledge Randy’s side of things.
One of Marciuliano’s strengths writing has been how his characters can with justice say how others are being the jerks here. It’s a good handle on motivation even if the result is a lot of unhappy scenes prone to yelling. He’s also good at the dynamic where people ask you to see the other person’s side, as though you wouldn’t be on your own side if you were aware of the other.
So he invites Neddy Spencer for a talk. Her streaming TV show about April Parker and Godiva Danube became a hit as the CIA grabbed their rogue agent. She needs material for a second season. She was thinking of April’s story hiding from the law. Randy offers something far better. April Parker’s troubles began when a rogue CIA faction suborned her into doing evil spy stuff for them instead of the CIA’s main evil spy stuff. All the agents of that rogue faction are dead, by her hands or by her father Norton’s. But April Parker has data on the whole operation, as best she could put it together. And, great news for TV production, libel laws don’t apply to the dead. So they can make a show about this and clear April Parker’s name in the Court of Public Opinion, if not in the Star Chamber courts.
I admit to tripping on this plot point. Not Randy’s giving this data to Neddy rather than a journalist. That I can understand. I don’t see how the CIA has allowed Randy Parker to have a hard drive of data from April Parker. I’m not even sure how she would have gotten it to him; his leaving their safe house was a surprise thing done (to him) on the spur of the moment. I have to imagine that the super-ultra-duper secret agents already know of and have copies of this hard drive. So they must have let Randy have this for reasons of their own. I don’t see what those are, but I’m willing to let the story unfold.
The other thread regards Abbey Spencer. She was cleared from suspicion of burning down her failed bed-and-breakfast when Deputy Mayor Stewart turned against his boss. Except her husband, Sam Driver, has suspicions, because Stewart shared a drone video showing Abbey setting fire to the building. Stewart’s bought Driver’s support for usurping his boss by burying the video.
Sam doesn’t really believe the footage is real. But what if it is? That’s been twisting him for months. Sophie Spencer, home from college, lets Neddy in on this secret. She also lets in her college roommate Reena, who’d invited herself to the Spencers’ place. I cannot imagine being a person like Reena, but I understand there are people like that. (I feel it’s too forward of me to call Marciuliano “Ces” the way all the successful comics bloggers seem to.) And it does some good in providing exposition that reinforces what readers might have forgotten about the situation.
Neddy cuts the Gordian knot of whether the footage is real by asking her video editor friend Brad … I’m going to say ‘Gordian’ … what he thinks. He thinks it’s all but certainly fake. They share the good news with Sam, who goes off to yell at Now Mayor Stewart. Stewart laughs him off: so what that it was fake? Sam acted on the presumption it was true and what is he going to do, blow up his marriage by telling Abbey what he thinks she would do? So Sam goes to blow up his marriage by telling Abbey about the footage and what he thought.
Here, I admit, I’m not sure I follow the motivation. I get Sam’s. But the implication is Stewart used what he knew to be fake video to get Sam Driver’s support in throwing Mayor Sanderson out of office. I don’t see why Stewart needed to buy Sam’s support here. It’s like giving me ten thousand dollars so I’ll go play pinball Tuesday night. I get Stewart wanting a strong ally in Sam Driver and Abbey Spencer. But he’d have that anyway for getting Mayor Sanderson out of office. And he has to have anticipated that Sam would learn, or decide, the video was fake. And, as Sophie observes, whoever faked the video can blackmail Stewart at any time. (I had thought we saw Stewart discovering the footage, but I seem to be wrong.) Also, please give me ten thousand dollars to play pinball Tuesday night.
Sam goes to talk with Abbey about the video in a scene we don’t see. We stick instead on Sophie and Neddy and Reena waiting for news. It’s suspenseful, and ominous, although I understand people for whom it doesn’t work. One of Marciuliano’s regular tricks on this strip has been to jump ahead three months and fill in the aftermath of some big event, rather than show it. This comes close to being that. I understand Marciuliano’s desire, to keep us off-screen and go to characters reacting, but it keeps us from seeing a juicy fight.
Sam texts Neddy that Abbey stormed out. The people we were watching rush home and Sam mourns that Abbey has given up on the town and the family. He mourns that everyone was right, he should have told Abbey about the video the moment he saw it. Abbey, after demanding to know how long everyone else knew about this video, disappears. Neddy calls in an expert on fixing their family: Marie, their trusty … uh … maid? Or former maid, anyway. Last we saw her she was working part-time at the bed-and-breakfast but I imagine it’d be impolite if she were still drawing a salary for that.
Marie is able to get Abbey on the phone, and they meet for a talk at some restaurant carefully ignoring them. Marie tries to suggest Abbey consider Sam’s point of view, but Abbey knows it. And she’s more interested in how Sam hurt her — rather than have a direct if frightening conversation with her — than in how he feels. I can’t argue with that. Marie can’t either. Given this, she plans to leave Sam. She may leave Cavelton entirely. It’s hard to say she’s wrong to plan this.
What do Leonardo da Vinci and a gigantic crow have in common? That they’re not in the current story in Jonathan Lemon and Joey Alison Sayers’s Alley Oop! But they are in the story just concluded, which I plan to recap next week. Thanks for reading.