- Posted by Johanna on November 24, 2006 at 11:07 pm
- Category: Graphic Novel Reviews
- PUBLISHER: AdHouse Books; $19.95 US
The beautiful Project: Romantic completes the publisher’s trilogy of outstanding anthologies. (The two previous were Project: Telstar and Project: Superior.) Bill Boichel’s lavishly illustrated introduction sets the stage by educating the reader about the history of romance comics, the leading comic genre of the 1950s. According to him, the Comic Code forced companies to replace realistic love stories with more simplistic justifications of the status quo, until Marvel took the market lead by combining classic romantic entanglements with their superhero stories. Now, this volume reclaims the classic subject matter.
The stories are all in color and present a wide variety of subjects, moods, and artistic approaches. Debbie Huey (Bumperboy) draws cute, child-like ninjas in love in a tale that would be adorable if not for the bloody violence. Doug Fraser’s wordless astronaut story is stunning in its simplicity; it seems standard until the meaning of the last panel sinks into the reader’s consciousness, at which point it becomes heart-breaking.
Big Time Attic mimics the look of an old romance comic with a bizarre re-imagining of Pygmalion, only with a post-war car designer instead of a sculptor. Hope Larson’s (Gray Horses) colorful story of college romance takes a more modern approach, told in part through instant messages. Adam McGovern and Paolo Leandri parody comics of the 1970s with their Dr. Id, who solves a case of sexual frigidity caused by guilt.
Aaron Renier (Spiral-Bound) provides a fairy tale-like watercolor that resembles a children’s book about love. Joel Priddy’s cartoon-like dinner date demonstrates, on further thought, how little we sometimes know about those we care for, even while doing things for them that they enjoy. And it’s funny. He has three more entries later in the book with the same characters, super-villains trying to balance work and relationship.
Scott Morse tells his tale of an obsessed widower through vibrant, full-page panels drenched in red tones. It’s worth of an art gallery display. That’s not the only artistic statement here; there are several stories with breathtaking uses of color and design, far beyond the experimental work sometimes seen in alternative anthologies. There’s also a choose-your-own-ending story by Maris Wicks wandering through the book, featuring a white lump and a black stick figure (also seen on the cover). Will they get a happy ending? It’s up to the reader.
That’s not all — I’ve described only some of the stories included, sticking to those I liked best. As with any anthology, there were some stories I didn’t like at all, and some I simply skipped. However, the number of pieces I really liked or kept thinking about far exceed those that didn’t work for me. Too often, when modern artists take on the subject of love, the result is shallow, cliched, or jaded. This book doesn’t fall into those traps, instead presenting a wide variety of viewpoints that still maintain optimism. Overall, the book is jam-packed with work from some of the best alternative cartoonists working today.