I was happily surprised while looking at the list of this week’s comics that Marvel was publishing a romance comic anthology in 2019 called Love Romances#1 Not a superhero comic masquerading as a romance book, but tales of tension, tragedy, and yes, true love featuring characters that aren’t a part of the Marvel Universe. It was pretty exciting and the book almost lived up to the hype with each story having a unique setting and theme plus varying levels of darkness and humor.
Arguably, the biggest name in the comic (writer Gail Simone) leads off with the main story with visuals from artist Roge Antonio and colorist Jim Charalampidis. It’s a futuristic, metafictional steampunk meditation on the nature of romance stories. Over the years from Jane Austen to Nancy Meyers, the romantic comedy has a formula, and Simone and Antonio show it in action steampunk-style with an Architect from Matrix Reloaded-esque (But with more gears than TV monitors) character named Gear Man making sure meet cutes happen, and the relationship between the archetypal characters, Widow and Stranger. Simone’s script is clever, a warm hug to the analog movement, and hints that the stories in this volume are more non-traditional, darker romance. However, the story ends up lacking emotional resonance. Antonio and Charalampidis draw the requisite blimps, ball dresses, and other objects.steampunk romance, but there is no liveliness to them. It’s like they’d rather be drawing superheroes punching each other.
Visuals definitely aren’t a problem in Love Romance‘s next story from writer/artists Margaux Motin and Pacco Morwling-Carter and colorist Lee Loughridge. It’s wonderfully wordless and poignant story of a man being “haunted” by the ghost of his lost love. But it’s not Gothic at all. It’s a normcore-ish bande desinee with clean, soft lines from Motin and Pacco that really nail how it feels to remember someone you’ve lost. The story is filled with expressive eyes, gestures, and faces, and Loughridge beautifully transitions from the spectral world to the real world. It’s a minimalist masterpiece, and honestly, one of the last things I expected to see in a Marvel comic.
The third story is the opposite of minimalist as Dennis “Hopeless” Halum, Annapaola Martello, and Jim Charalampidis craft a juicy, Southern Gothic riff on the Rapunzel fairy tale. The premise is basic and a patriarchal: a father wants his daughter all for himself. The most striking image is the red on her dress from Charalamipidis that draws the eye from panel to panel as you’re rooting for her to escape her father’s house somehow. This story is the most suspenseful and least funny of the bunch and has the flowing fabrics and Gothic romantic tone of an early Kate Bush video or an Ann Radcliffe novel.
The final story in Love Romances #1 is the funniest and most messed up of the bunch courtesy of cartoonist Jon Adams. It is about a couple named Richie and Mona, who transfer their consciousnesses to robots so that their love will be eternal. Anyone who has read a Warren Ellis comic knows this doesn’t end well. (Maybe.) Adams has a lot of fun in the future setting without a lot of extraneous worldbuilding and mines his short story for peak schadenfreude. There’s a lot of oozing liquids and transforming bodies as well as human mediocrity and ends the comic on a decidedly unsexy note.
Love Romances #1 is a feast of tonal shifts, O. Henry twists, and goes beyond the typical romance template in occasionally freaky ways. It would be great if this was more than just a one-shot.
Story: Gail Simone, Dennis Halum
Story/Art: Margaux Motin, Pacco Morwling-Carter, Jon Adams
Art: Roge Antonio, Annapaola Martello
Colors: Jim Charalampidis, Lee Loughridge, Tamra Bonvillain
Letters: Travis Lanham
Story: 8.5 Art: 7.8 Overall: 8.3 Verdict: Buy
Marvel Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review