by Kate Leth, Kieron Gillen, Marguerite Bennett, Sarah Kuhn, Sarah Vaughn
Illustrated by Arielle Jovellanos, Christine Norrie, Sally Jane Thompson, Sarah Winifred Searle, Trungles
Series: Fresh Romance #1
Published 2016 by Oni Press
224 pages. Paperback
Genres: Comics, Anthologies, Fiction, Romance, Historical Fiction, Speculative Fiction
Fresh is right. This collection of romantic comics offers some truly fresh takes. It’s diverse in representation, style, and genre. Some of the comics are funny, some are sad, and some are beautiful. I’m looking forward to the next volume!
School Spirit by Kate Leth & Arielle Jovellanos
This one reminded me so much of the new Archie comics, which I really enjoyed. There’s high school drama; all the other kids seem to be interested in what’s going on with the four main characters. I loved the diversity represented in this comic. It was so nice to see characters of color on the page. I also appreciated the intersectionality going on with the queer characters of color. We need more of that! There’s a pretty great science fiction/fantasy twist in this one. It added an extra layer of fun to a such a vibrant comic. It doesn’t end perfectly, which was kind of refreshing. A lot of times you have to deal with the best you can get for a little while. I do hope there’s more where this came from. I loved it and it would be great to get a little more out of these characters and the world Leth has built. The art was spot on and it probably contributed a bit to my Archie nostalgia. The style is similar to some of those comics and the colors were just as striking.
Ruined by Sarah Vaughn & Sarah Winifred Searle
I really hope there’s more coming from this one because I finished really wanting more from it. It said “volume one” on the title page so I’m hopeful. This was right up my alley. It was historically set during the Regency era, which is my favorite time period to read romance. It starts out pretty sad, but I think it has the potential to become a marriage of convenience story. I love that romance trope so much. The two main characters have just married for social reasons. Rumors are flying about Catherine’s love affair with a man. Andrew has inherited an estate in ruins with no funds to restore it. I think this could go in an interesting direction when it comes to Catherine’s previous relationship. Andrew seems pretty stoic most of the time, but he has these great moments of tenderness. I kind of need this comic to continue because I want to know how things turn out for these two. The art was was so perfect and really set the atmosphere for the comic. I think it’s worth noting that there is some nudity in case that’s a concern for anyone considering it. It’s not so much graphic as it is a natural part of what’s happening in the comic. It didn’t bother me, but it did take me by surprise. I highly recommend this one. It was probably my favorite in the volume.
The Ruby Equation by Sarah Kuhn & Sally Jane Thompson
This was a little bizarre and cheesy, but so much fun. Ruby was sent to earth from another dimension to help humans fall in love in situations where they might miss the connection. If she reaches a certain quota, she can be sent back to her own dimension to be given a new mission. She’s not very fond of humans and is trying her best to get off Earth as soon as possible, but she’s missing the point by setting up people based on the superficial rather than deeper similarities. It takes a much more personal experience for her to begin to appreciate her mission. There’s not much more to say about this one. It was fun and cute. The art really fit the hip feeling of the comic. Some of the premise was a little ridiculous, but I still enjoyed it. I don’t think this one is going anywhere since it had a pretty final resolution. It’s like a good short film: it works in its short form and its worth the small amount of time spent on it.
Beauties by Marguerite Bennett & Trungles
This one didn’t speak to me nearly as much as the rest. It’s obviously inspired by Beauty and the Beast, though the plot is really different. It reads a lot like a fable or a fairy tale. I wasn’t a fan of the way the panels broke up the text. It seemed like they would have been better separate, the words on one page and the art on the opposite page depicting what was happening in the text. The art was beautiful, though not my favorite style. I do appreciate how much the style fits that fairy tale feel. They’re the kind of illustrations you might find throughout collector’s editions of fairy tale collections.
First, Last and Always by Kieron Gillen & Christine Norrie
For such a quick comic, this was delightful. I loved the two distinct art styles when it came to the present and flashbacks. When the main character kisses someone, she sees her last kiss with that person. It’s a cool concept and the place that Gillen and Norrie take it bring up some interesting questions about what we would do when faced with the the future during the present. I loved the blurry, snowy art of the present. It was really beautiful. I always know I can expect good things from Kieron Gillen, but this is the first time I’ve heard of Christine Norrie.
Okay! I’m ready for more of this, Oni Press!