Love Romances #1

Writers: Gail Simone, Margaux Motin, Pacco Dorwling-Carter, Dennis Hallum, Jon Adams
Artists: Roge Antonio, Margaux Motin, Pacco Dorwling-Carter, Annapaola Martello, Jon Adams
Colorists: Jim Charalampidis, Lee Loughridge, Tamra Bonvillain
Letterer: VC’s Travis Lanham
Publisher: Marvel Comics

Review by Cameron Kieffer

Marvel’s celebrating Valentine’s Day a week late with a new anthology.  While the company used to be known for a wide array of romance comics back in the day, the genre’s popularity waned to the point of near-extinction in the seventies.  Every so often, however, the house that Stan built puts out a one-shot anthology where various creators can tell tales of love, woe, and occasionally capes.  Love Romances #1 is the latest in this sporadic series, but, if you’re expecting traditional love stories featuring your favorite heroes and villains, you’ll be in for a shock.

The stories in this one-shot definitely focus less on traditional romance and more on the tragic and often dark side of love.  Our opening chapter “The Widow and the Clockwork Heart” features a distinctly Victorian-esque future where heartbreak and love are trapped in a seemingly endless cycle.  “Heartbreak from Beyond” is a heart-wrenching story of loss.  “French Quartered” delivers a twisted tale of love where not all prevail.  Lastly, “Gone Like the Wind” ends things on a more humorous note but still manages to depict the folly of love and technology, while delivering an ending that is equally happy and depressing.

This book is just bonkers.  Not only are these stories among the least romantic romance stories ever, but this doesn’t feel at all like a Marvel comic.  Love Romances #1 reads like an anti-romance book that could have been published by literally any other company.  It’s pretty amazing!  Gail Simone handles the writing in the first tale, and she paves the way with a story that is both sweet and tragic.  She has a gift with depicting weird characters in weirder settings, and she goes full-tilt weird in this one.  The art by Roge Antonio and Jim Charalampidis  is gorgeous and probably the most traditional-looking of the stories within.

As tragic as “The Widow…” may be, I was moved to tears by “Heartbreak from Beyond.”  Margaux Motin and Pacco Dorwling-Carter handle both the art and writing duties in this silent tale of love and loss.  The cartoony art never seems out of place, and in fact makes the story that much more heartbreaking.  It’s seemingly simple but deeply complex and sad and…it’s basically the first ten minutes of Up so be prepared to read it with a box of tissues.  Dennis Hallum takes thing in a much darker direction with his story, and the beautiful art by Annapaola Martello just adds to the grittiness.  The team packs a lot of emotion, along with some interesting twists in this atmospheric tale of passion.  Charalampidis handles the coloring here as well and shows an incredible range, as well as a keen eye for using different tones to differentiate past and present.

The final story by Jon Adams is a darkly comic fantasy about the nature of technology and how fickle love can be.  “Gone Like the Wind” is definitely a story you can only tell in comics, and it’s just plain nuts.  You know that friend who always falls for the wrong girl, makes all the wrong choices, and still never learns?  That’s the protagonist here, and he’s eerily relatable in all the worst ways.  An alternate title for this story could have been “Love is Terrible,” which would have suited this anthology in general.

The Verdict: Buy it.

This weird one-shot is about as far from traditional as you can get, and it’s awesome.  Every story is different but similar, and each one is great.  The lack of superheroes or recognizable characters in Love Romances #1 may be disappointing to some, but it’s a risky venture that ultimately works.  The mix of known and lesser-known creators is refreshing, and I will definitely look for their work in the future.

Cameron Kieffer
Cameron Kieffer wears many hats. He is a freelance writer and artist, creator of the webcomic "Geek Theory" and is co-host of the Nerd Dump podcast. He lives in Topeka with his wife and increasingly growing comic book collection.

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