Young Romance #1: The New 52 Valentine’s Day Special
Creators To Follow
Reviewed by Sean Lamont
Ah, Valentine’s Day, that oh-so-wonderful quasi-holiday that comes but once a year to torment the single and stress out the attached as they scramble to provide a suitable token of affection for the ones they love. Okay, Okay, it MAY be a bitter pill of a day for me; as it causes ulcers no matter which side of the fence I happen to reside on each year. Setting aside my cynicism and stepping beyond its material trappings though, it is a lovely day in theory, dedicated to focusing our efforts and attention on the people we care about romantically. And to get into the spirit of it, DC Comics has released a 64-page anthology detailing some of the adventures in love their cast of characters have embarked on in this week’s Young Romance. Sadly though, while I am a sucker for a sappy romantic tale, I fear the advances of Young Romance may find themselves scorned by this particular individual.
Catwoman – Think It Through
Written by Ann Nocenti; Art by Emanuela Lupacchino
Catwoman and Batman meet for the first time, as the feline burglar is confronted by her counterpart in a low-rent heist of televisions in her younger years. This story is an odd duck. While the first meeting of these two should be intriguing at the least, almost everything in this story runs counter to how these characters have been portrayed elsewhere in the New 52. The dialogue is almost clunky, as it appears to be gunning for sexual tension via innuendo in a PG setting, but it just does not play right in these few pages. The art, while less pinup than the actual title has done, still feels rigid for two characters that are running throughout the city of Gotham. Not much in the way of romance as well, but lust is a pretty integral part of young love, so I’ll let it slide. Overall, not too impressed, but it is the opening act; so lets see what is next!
Aquaman – The Lighthouse
Written by Cecil Castellucci; Art by Inaki Miranda
While preparing for a storm at their lighthouse home, Mera finds the old correspondence of divided lovers who were kept apart by family and sea. As I said at the top, I’m a sucker for sappy tales, and this one falls straight into that category of romantic fluff. Though the parallels drawn between the doomed relationship of the past and the ‘complicated’ history between Aquaman and Mera are delivered a little ham-handedly, it still comes off as a nice story overall about how they will fight through any issues that threaten their relationship. Personally, I really liked the lighter art style by Miranda in this little story as well, though it is a sharp divide from the current depictions of both in their current home title. Not the best story, but it did at least acknowledge the relationship, and I enjoyed it nonetheless.
Batgirl – Dreamer
Written by Ray Fawkes; Art by Julius Gopez
After his brief encounter with Batgirl in the main title, Ricky, the once car thief turned crippled informant to the young heroine, pines for another chance at winning over his masked savior. This one was a little rough for me. Even knowing who the character is and why he would have a thing for Batgirl, what I assume was meant to be a light-hearted and flirtatious scene comes across as a bit forced and awkward. Though that fault may not lay entirely at Fawkes’ feet, who has shown himself as a competent writer on JLD, as Gopez’s art was what really held the short story back. Dirty and haphazard, it drags the flighty scene down into a murky haze that kills any of the fun that the dialogue was trying to get across. Vaguely relationship oriented, but far from an entertaining read, regardless of whether the art was at fault or not.
Stormwatch – Seoul Brothers
Written by Peter Milligan; Art by Simon Bisley
Apollo tracks down Midnighter in Seoul to confront him on the difficulties of maintaining a relationship while part of a clandestine strike force. I’m still processing where in the timeline this story takes place, but overall, I kind of liked this story. Two vastly different people, but both pragmatic in their approach on how they could make things work. I was unsure until the final page, which, knowing the characters and the section of the world they populate; made the story work all the better as they both passively acknowledge their affections through their vehement denials. Bisley’s art is; well, it is unlike any style I have ever seen these characters drawn in. I’m not sure if I love it or if I hate it, but I have stared at the panels for an hour trying to make up my mind. That is a thin tightrope to walk, and one I have to commend him for gambling with no matter where my brain someday decides to fall. The second story to actually involve a relationship after four, so running the line evenly between the attached and single crowds thus far.
Nightwing – Another Saturday Night
Written by Kyle Higgins; Art by Sanford Greene
Nightwing loses out on a chance for love yet again to his mission of vigilantism, but meets another young lady who shares his lifestyle in the process. Probably my favorite story out of the anthology, it is also one of the saddest of the offerings in this book. Nightwing, the eternal optimist in a world of grim and gritty, continues to have the gumption to wear his heart on his sleeve in a city that would just as easily run it through than cherish it. The dialogue plays as carefree as the earlier Batgirl chapter tried, but is assisted with some easier on the eyes artwork from Greene. Though his facial expression needs quite a bit of work, the rest of his panels showed an energy that the previous stories were lacking entirely. The relationship aspect plays as a background theme through most of the story though, and doesn’t really payoff until the last page.
Superman/Wonder Woman – Truth or Dare
Written by Andy Diggle; Art by Robson Rocha
Clark and Diana go out on another dinner date, and are interrupted by a familial disturbance that may put their relationship to the test. Hey, here we go, more screen time for the Superman/Wonder Woman relationship. Since their last date was busted up by an aircraft carrier smashing into Metropolis, it will be nice to see them interact in a more romantic ambiance. But no, another approach at exploring their dynamic through conversation is ruined when an enslaved Eros and his captors the Sirens burst onto the scene. I absolutely loved the concept of the story in exploring the theme, but I will admit I was hoping for some actual deep diving into the relationship instead of the punch-em-up that took place over half the story; even if I am alone in wanting to read such in a superhero comic venue. While it was a bit jarring to see a different style to the members of the Greek pantheon, I have to say that Roscha’s artwork had a clean and effective style. Final tally for this story, great story and decent art, just not what I was looking for; but I obviously cannot fault it for that.
For being a book dedicated to exploring the relationships of some of its heroes, Young Romance actually shied pretty far away from really getting into the nitty-gritty of the topic. I’m well aware that the demographic these books are aimed at may not be clamoring to get a title in that wheelhouse, but I had hoped that a separate anthology outside of their respective titles would make a more concerted effort to break out of those constraints. With its pages equally divided between running, jumping, punching, and kicking as well as actual romance; the anthology in total may fall into an odd middle ground where it is too slow for the action crowd, and too surface level for the romance fans.
At $7.99, I say pass. I would probably even say pass at $3.99. With a couple very odd artistic choices, a majority of surface level stories that provide little in the way of character exploration, and a theme that is vaguely danced around than actually confronted; Young Romance was an interesting idea that unfortunately was unable to meet up to my expectations. But that’s the thing about young romance, you can never know until you put your heart (and your wallet) out into the world to find out for yourself.