Young Monsters In Love #1
Writers: Mark Russell, Steve Orlando, Jeff Lemire, James Robinson, Paul Dini, Various, Phil Hester, Alisa Kwitney, Kyle Higgins
Artists: Kelley Jones, Frazer Irving, Guillem March, Various
Publisher: DC Comics
Review by Sean Frankling
Young Monsters In Love #1 is just like what you’d expect to get if you crammed an old-school Archie comic into the Large Hadron Collider with an issue of Tales From the Crypt. In other words, it’s an anthology of love stories featuring the stars and spooks of DC’s stable of monsters. Inside, you’ll find Frankenstein, Swamp Thing and Man-Bat, each playing out their own tragic romances. Say what you will, that’s definitely a fresh take on a Valentine’s Day special.
What happens when the disfigured, dysfunctional or just disconcerting denizens of DC’s universe fall into romantic passion? Well, not your classic happy endings, it turns out.
Most of the contributors to this ghoulish anthology focus on the sad truth of love for a monster: rejection, pain and loss. After all, it’s tough out there for the Solomon Grundies of the world. If your intended paramours aren’t fleeing from you in terror, there’s always a mob of townsfolk or an overzealous superhero coming to tear you two apart. As a result, this issue is more complex than your standard cupid’s arrow romance. That might be a welcome change of pace for those who find the usual Valentine’s Day fair saccharine.
That being said, not all of the stories are outright downers. There’s a hopeful ending in Kirk Langstrom (Man-bat) overcoming his addiction out of self-love. Deadman brings new confidence to a fourth-grader left out of a classroom valentine exchange. And even as Swamp Thing and Etrigan lose their ladies to unforgiving fate, their stories see them finding the strength to fight back.
Now, the monster love story is nothing new in comics. The Thing, of Fantastic Four fame is the classic example: beloved, despite his disfigurement, by the beautiful but blind sculptor, Alicia Masters. The grizzly beast finds a bright spot in his otherwise miserable predicament in a beautiful woman who sees the kind heart underneath.
While there’s nothing wrong with that classic story, it’s fascinating that even in the upbeat endings, the Young Monsters In Love don’t end up as happy couples. Instead, the anthology tells us that though monsters may be hurt by rejection or loss, they can also grow beyond those things. They don’t need someone else to give them value by loving them; they have it in themselves already. That’s a surprisingly affirming message from a collection of tragic love stories. And it’s an important one to hear if Valentine’s Day leaves you feeling left out.
I should note that the stories are told from an overwhelmingly male perspective, but they’re also deeply nontraditional versions of the male-led romance story. Rather than the standard “meet the girl, win her heart” model, these stories give us a surprisingly softer side. They’re about accepting the hurt when your love moves on without you — knowing it hurts, but letting go. It’s a good way to start a conversation mostly left out of traditional love stories: how to do that healthily.
The Verdict: Buy It.
Young Monsters In Love #1 might not be for everybody. But, it’s worth checking out, even if only for being such a weird choice for Valentine’s Day.