The new series immediately begins filling in gaps in the original series. The biggest missing piece is the story of how Beth met Orson (although I remember a short version of that in the main series), and the plot they hatch that eventually finds them on the run. Kretchmeyer plays a major role in these issues, too, as Lonnie’s assassin, Spanish Scott’s henchman, and Beth’s lover (and then Nina). I don’t remember him in the original series, so I’m guessing his whole arc plays out in Sunshine & Roses. Stylistically it’s as if the series had never stopped, which made it a very satisfying read–there was even an Amy Racecar issue. So far the issues have all been exactly 30 pages long, so they are paced like the earlier ones (but with maybe more discipline on the issue length, since there was leeway on the page count earlier). I have returned to the timeline site to help me fit these stories into chronological order.
According to the Stray Bullets Timeline Wikia Kretchmeyer made a brief appearance in SB #7, and in Killers #7-8. But these earlier Kretchmeyer sightings weren’t really appearances. SB #7 includes art in the back that was later used for Sunshine & Roses #1, so it’s only technically his first appearance. And in Killers he is mentioned–a lot of action comes from his goons–but doesn’t actually appear on panel. So my memory isn’t so bad, after all.
The second Sunshine & Roses collection (Issues #9-16) is almost entirely devoted to Beth and Orson’s big heist: the lead-up, the heist itself, and the immediate aftermath as they go on the lam. All of this fills in background to the original Stray Bullets series, going back to Issue # 5. Here in 1981, Beth and Orson are sharing a freaky codependent relationship. They’re both using drugs, Orson is trying to convince Rose that they are a couple–while still keeping contact with Nina–and Beth is stringing Kretchmeyer along.
The events leading up to the heist are an unlikely combination of planning and chance. Spanish Scott demonstrates his usual insight, which looks like the end of the plan–but there are more moving parts than he anticipated, despite his legendary instincts. Ultimately Beth and Orson succeed in the theft–although not exactly as they planned–but they find themselves hobbled with Krethchmeyer and Harry’s son Joey.
Events transpire, leaving the group with an injured witness. But Krethchmeyer is out of the picture, which counts as a win. There are details about how Orson and Beth wound up in Woodlake in the original series, which may or may not be revealed in the next collection. But this is a satisfying chapter in the story. I will say that it could have been done in fewer issues, and the obligatory Amy Racecar issue is becoming tedious.
Sunshine & Roses Part 3 (Issues #17-24) is all getaway from the big score. Beth, Orson, Nina and Joey run to the last place Beth wants to be: her mother Annie’s house in Florida. Annie is definitely a piece of work: she is lying about her age and her history to her husband and everyone else, and gets into drug dealing to pay for the luxuries her husband can’t afford. She has two kids, but no interest in being a mother–which confirms at least one of the things that Beth has said about her.
Annie has gotten mixed up with two mall security guards–who caught her stealing a designer purse–when her ex-husband Paulo shows up. Shortly after that, Beth and her group make their appearance. It’s not a happy family reunion, and the arc has barely started. Annie soon suspects that something is going on, courtesy of pumping Joey for information, and Annie and her security guard lover Ralphie find the coke and the cash.
So when Monster, Spanish Scott, Sarousian and Kretchmeyer (who turns out to have survived the night of the heist after all) track them down they can honestly say that they do not know where the money and drugs are. When Joey finally figures out how to call his mom Rose she adds to the mix. Somehow, through the usual mix of boldness and luck, Beth, Orson and Nina wind up on the road. They are headed for a random place where no one will think to look for them, but stop off in New Orleans first for a surreal little adventure. Still not in Woodlake, but they’re getting there.
There is the expected Amy Racecar issue here as well. But there is a significant twist: it is finally revealed that the Amy Racecar stories were all imagined by Beth as a girl during the four days she was in a coma after being hit over the head with a pot by her mother Annie. This certainly explains the aspects of them that relate to her actual history, as well as the childlike fantasy elements.