While it may run counter-expectation to a lot of you, I don’t visit my local comic shop (The Laughing Ogre) a lot. That’s no reflection on the shop as much as a matter of money and time…. Neither of which I have in abundance. Most of the comics I buy for myself come from kickstarter or in wholesale lots that I intend to resale.
I do go in every once in a while for bags and boards or other supplies, and when I do I always try to pick up a book or two. Here are the two that I grabbed on my latest trip and what i think of ‘em:
Twisted Romance 2 of 4
I had actually meant to make a trip to the Laughing Ogre specifically to pick up issue #1 of this after seeing Katy Skelly tweet about it, but I never got around to it. Both loving old romance comics and recognizing the need to update the premises of any modern romance comics, I was eager to see what this book was all about. I very much want to do a romance comic anthology paired with an LP full of 20s and 80s power pop cover someday, so chalk this purchase up to research.
Twisted Romance is divide up into three different stories, two graphic narratives sandwiching a prose piece in a flipbook format. I think it’s great that they presented the plain text piece, much like romance and crime comics did in the gold, silver and (sometimes) bronze ages, but the flipbook thing might’ve been a touch too cute. It didn’t add much for me.
The first story of the three is titled Twinkle & the Star, by Alejandra Gutierrez and Alex de Campi and it is the piece that mostly closely mirrors the classic romance comic formula of “girl meets boy, girl falls for boy but fears that love is unrequited, girl ends up with boy anyway… cuz, love!”
The main character, named Twinkle natch, even has what I would consider a classic romance comics job, assisting a famous fashion photographer. Without being too spoilery, the difference between the conflict and resolution in this story and an older romance comic has less to do with sitcom style misunderstandings and more to do with the complexities of human sexuality. Also (I would say that this is true of all three stories in this issue) the ending is not so much a happily-ever-after sort of thing, more the anxious start of an ongoing story that is likely to have its share of ups and downs. Like a real romance.
The artwork really carries Twinkle & The Star, the main characters are very expressive in a human way and the color palette, chock full of lavenders, pinks and oranges is great. It’s worth noting, too, how unique Twinkle looks in this story. In older romance comics artists often had cookie cutter woman in all of the roles and Twinkle would’ve looked pretty much like the models she scorns in the story. Not so here! She has a unique appearance to match her unique character.
Back At Your Door by Vita Ayala is the prose story I mentioned above and is about college student Luz Lopez and her flirtatious relationships with two other women. It is more of a character study than a conflict driven romance story, but in the end there is a resolution of sorts to Luz’s romantic quandaries. Again, without doing too much of a reveal, where the previous story generated a twist by playing with the main character’s preconceptions about sexuality, Back at Your Door plays with preconceptions of what constitutes a partner type relationship.
Would You Even Know It?
This was the story that I enjoyed the most of the three. The premise is that a woman develops a relationship with an on-line personality that may or may not be an artificial intelligence. Minor spoiler alert: It is left up to the reader whether or not the main character is engaging with an AI or just an extremely odd catfisher. In the end it doesn’t really matter as the questions posed by the story have more to do with what is the nature of the relationship between two beings that never interact IRL. (In real life? Did this old man do that right?)
My only gripe with this story is that it could have used a little more space to develop. McLaren is able to convey the passage of time and the development of the relationship adequately, but spends more time philosophizing on the context of it than the development, which makes me care a little less about the philosophy part.
Black Betty #1
Written by Shawn Gabborin, Art by Michela Da Sacco, Rosa “Rosakaz” Rantilla
A monster hunter who looks like Rosie the Riveter? OK… That hits me in the sweet spot. It’s very much the kind of thing I would do in a Nix Comics Quarterly, so I definitely wanted to pick up the comic. (Its also released by Action Lab entertainment, which distributed/copublished the 27 Anthology with Red Stylo Media, so they have on some small scale helped me out in the past. Seems like the least I can do is buy one of their comics.
This comic seems to be a direct poke at the conversative dudes raising a fuss in the comic book world right now. A female protagonist monster hunter tracking down a troll (get it?) that is kidnapping and impregnating girls from a remote small town. To add to the dig, Betty isn’t a Witchblade style bikini babe, she’s short, tattooed and powerfully built.
The artwork is pretty nice. This is going to sound like a little thing, but Da Sacco does something that I notice a lot of modern artists can’t… She maintains the relative dimensions of of character who is supposed to be short across the whole narrative. Betty is ALWAYS noticeably shorter than the rest of the cast appearing in the same panels. It’s nice… Most artists don’t bother.
I liked it this comic OK, but I do have a couple of relatively strong critiques.
Betty has the power to “absorb” monsters into herself, creating a new tattoo in the process. It’s an interesting concept, but it seems like they had a hard time conveying it in the story, basically explaining it three times: Once visually, then through a caption and finally outside of the story in one of those silly Official Handbook to the Marvel Universe style character essays. (Sorry, but I hate those!) I noticed that the writer Gabborin is also the editor-in-chief at Action Lab and wonder if this could have been done more smoothly with the addition of a new set of eyes.
My biggest problem with this comic, though, is that it ends in a cliffhanger and thanks to my sporadic comic buying habits, I won’t ever likely see how it all resolves. Given that there are eight pages of back matter, including 6 pages of “alternate covers” that really add very little, I think they could easily have made this a self contained story. Heck, I would have paid an extra buck or two for a complete story and potentially picked up future issues knowing that I would get the same.