I have to admit I still don’t know what’s going on in “Judge Parker.”
In his efforts to clean up the sprawling plotlines of the
venereal venerable strip, Francesco “Ces” Marciuliano has jumped ahead in time. Last week a grizzled Sam Driver furiously stared at clippings on a board, as if trying to solve a murder on “The Closer.” He seems to believe that Sophie’s disappearance — we won’t call it a death, because the characters aren’t — was planned. (If so, the planners are almost as clever and far-seeing as Russian hackers.)
And then there’s been a mysterious meeting between the mysterious criminals and Judge Parker himself, not to mention Neddy lamenting her life in Alaska. It’s all a bit like the opening of Snoopy’s magnum opus, “It Was a Dark and Stormy Night.” “Suddenly, a pirate ship appeared on the horizon! While millions of people were starving, the king lived in luxury. Meanwhile, on a small farm in Kansas, a boy was growing up. …”
But I give Ces and Mike Manley a lot of credit for yesterday’s strip, a wordless ache of grief that evoked — dare I say it? — Chris Ware’s brilliant, spare work. In seven quiet panels, we see Honey (at least, I think it’s Honey) walking the halls of her high school. She reeks of pain. She says nothing, lost in her own world. Then she goes outside and sits on a bench, alone, to eat lunch. The trees are bare; leaves rustle on the ground.
That’s it. That’s the whole strip. And it’s got more power than a month of “Funky Winkerbeans.” (Of course, my 1982 Renault LeCar had more power than a month of “Funky Winkerbeans.” But nevertheless …)
I don’t know where things are going — and I hope some of them get resolved soon — but it’s always nice to see a strip like yesterday’s, one that stands outside the conventional. If that’s what it takes to get “Judge Parker” back on its feet, I’ll take plenty more.
Still, I hope it’s not all a dream.