Novelist, comic book writer, and also comic book reviewer for www.BrokenFrontier.com, also website marketing coach for the Online Marketing Solutions company Push Traffic dot com. Incidentally, I am also the worst writer in the world.
Whoo-hoo! What a thrill to have finally read the very last (missing) installment of my Stinz collection!
A Stranger to Our Kind (Stinz Volume III, #5), the fifth and final one-shot published by MU PRESS before Stinz V.III continued on for four more issues (#6-9) and a graphic novel (New Souls, which wedged itself between issues #8 and 9) under creator Donna Barr's own company imprint, A FINE LINE PRESS.
The first two volumes of Stinz dealt with his war years, as a half-horse conscripted into the German army, his meteoric rise to war hero, thus nicknamed "The Black Major", and then also his coming home, back to a rural farmland community. There were whispers, though, of "The End of the War", and how this had somehow traumatized Stinz, changed the face of the world as anyone knew it, and yet Stinz's own township seemed unaffected. The one-shots otherwise known as Stinz V.III #1-4 slowly built-up the mystery, and revealed hints of precisely how the world changed, and began to build up a new tension: Stinz and the townfolk vs. the Baron and Baronin, who since the End of the War have apparently, officially "owned" the town, and all the half-horses became their Serfs. Half-horses are not seen to the world at large as people, with the rights of two-leggers. By and large creator Barr kept this mostly as part of the setting, rather than first and foremost in the trials of the characters. But all that changed with "A Stranger to Our Kind".
Here, the conflict between the extreme class differences as accentuated by the results of "The End of the War", come straight to the fore. The Baronin has married the Baron, and now brings her guards in to run the valley as she deems proper, which is based on an outsider's perspective of "proper". This leads to yellow-suited soldiers trotting about and demanding service of the locals, which leads to one local reacting with a fatal consequence for one of the soldiers. Confusion and outrage ensue, leading to one young half-horse soldier, Yesi, thoughtlessly naming Stinz as the most likely suspect in the murder.
Now, Yesi had been (somewhat unsuccessfully) courting Stinz' daughter, Reet, only to be rebutted by both the girl and the old war half-horse himself, so that this accusation stems from less-than-sincere impulses. Now Stinz' ex-General, Gift, along with Yesi and other soldiers who consider the half-horses little more than uppity slaves, have to bring Stinz to a ceremonial trial that no one in the valley has actually heard of or taken part of before, and mass miscommunication is the flavor of the day.
This is the story that truly kick-starts everything that comes in the FINE LINE PRESS issues. The Baron and Baronin, the carnivorous face-horse Kilan, mention of the ground zero area for the mysterious End of the War, the first story that truly centers itself around the cultural overhauls caused by said End of the War, much talk of journeying back into the world outside the valley, Yesi and Reet's relationship, the respect and love between Gift and Stinz that only two old war companions could have, no matter the most current conflict between them. It's all here, and makes, frankly, issues #6-9 seem much less sudden of a switch in tone and focus as they did before, when I tried to jump from V.III #4 to #6.
A Stranger to Our Kind is dense and jam-packed, with dozens of characters, and a whole story told on nearly every page, each page like a chapter in a book, nearly self-contained in its own right but then you get a full book-length contemplation of events should you plow through all 40+ pages of the one-shot. In a way, this is the perfect "jumping-on point" for Stinz, as everything you need to know is explored here, and then continued and brought to natural conclusions in following issues. Think of this as like the beginning of the "Twilight years" for Stinz, all past stories dealing more with youth (V.I) and middle age (V.II, III #1-4).
Barr's dialogue and pacing is in perfect control, which is to say the story tells itself without doubting its intent or direction for an instant. The art is equally as finely wrought, tight and layered but very polished. The printing is smooth and flawlessly cut and magic to the touch - crisp white paper and solid cardstock cover.
An absolutely beautiful package, with a striking cover and a story that will bloat you with ideas and characters and events as though a meal of fried chicken and waffles - it will stay with you, intermittently pleasant and otherwise.
For all other Stinz issues (they're all available except this one!), go to:
THE LITTLE STORE (http://donnabarr.blogspot.com/2007/04/my-emergency-website.html)
EDUCATION OF PURCHASE:
STINZ V.III #1-4 and 6-9 are sold individually.
The two Stinz collections offered: "CHARGER" collects all of V.I and V.II under one cover, and "ALL TURNED AROUND", otherwise/also known as "NEW SOULS" GN, fits chronologically between V.III #8 and 9, and collects a long run of online Stinz stories Barr published at ModernTales.com, where you can find yet more of her Stuff.