Love Romances #1 // Review
Comic books have the potential to cover a much wider range of genres than they often do. Romantic fiction rarely makes its appearance in the panels. This year in celebration of its 80th anniversary, Marvel has been returning to long-dead genre titles left along the margins of its history. With Love Romances, Marvel presents a one-shot romance anthology consisting of four different stories. Though it is stylistically much more eclectic than previous Marvel 80th anniversary revivals, Love Romance fails to fully embrace the potential of a genre that is so often overlooked by mainstream comics.
The opening story is a steampunk romance involving a clockwork romance with a swift twist at the end. Writer Gail Simone conjures some poetry in a wistful romance that sets the tone for the whole issue. Rogê Antônio’s Art is both tender and fantastic in a satisfying, little four-page dream.
The second story has the creative team of Margaux Motin and Pacco Dorwling-Carter conjuring a wordless fugue between man and ghost. It’s a tender heart-break of a story. Sometimes loving means letting go. And sometimes that kind of love that needs to let go would only be cheapened by words.
Set in New Orleans, the third story features a star-crossed romance between the daughter of an overprotective father and a man who can’t seem to stay away. Dennis “Hopeless” Hallum writes the story drawn by with vivid French Quarter imagery by Annapaola Martello. It’s a tale of love told in reds, grays and a weepy sepia that plays with the subtle psychological horror of desire. (There’s a tremendous amount of discipline and restraint in Jim Charalampidis’ coloring of the story.)
Writer/Artist John Adams’ “Gone Like the Wind” closes-out the issue. with a funny, little pulpy sci-fi romance that hearkens back to old light comedies found in the pages of antiquated sci-fi anthologies like Amazing Stories and over the airwaves in episodes of the X Minus One radio show. Husband and wife decide to get their minds uploaded into metal android replicas in an effort to attain romantic immortality only to find that eternity is a bit complicated.
The first and last stories in the anthology suggest a fusion of romance with fantasy that can live on the comics page in a way that it couldn’t quite manage in any other format on stage, screen or otherwise. In light of this, it seems a bit strange that Editor Mark Paniccia didn’t go all the way with exploration of the frontiers of fantastic romance. It’s not just that every romantic story here is essentially using a cisgender heteronormative model of romance...it’s the fact that comic book fantasy can explore so much more than romance between two people. What about a goddess falling in love with a female disciple who isn’t into her as anything other than a diety? What would happen if a landscape fell in love with an artist who was painting it? A little over a decade ago a woman married the Eiffel Tower. Why not something like that? Maybe a woman breaks the fourth wall and starts to fall in love with the reader from beyond the panel. There’s so much potential here. The comics page could hold so much more than traditional romance in ways theatre, cinema and video could never touch. It’s too bad Paniccia didn’t try something more daring in a one-shot anthology. It’s only one issue, so it doesn’t actually have to make money. Why not do something wild and breathtaking with it? What could possibly be more romantic than that?