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At this time of year, thoughts turn to love, and with that comes the obvious next step: comic books.
Okay, sure; it’s safe to say that the romance comic genre has had a complicated history in the U.S., but comics have always been home to stories of heightened emotions and the grand, elevated drama of love, loss, and young hearts running free. To remind you of that — and perhaps offer up some reading material to get you ready for Valentine’s Day — here are six of the best comic book romance stories. Just remember what I said about love and loss, as a bit of a warning…
There’s no discussion of romance comics without mentioning Alice Oseman’s monolith of the genre — a title so successful that it almost feels at odds with the simplicity and intimacy of Oseman’s storytelling, as Nick and Charlie meet and fall in love in such a way that feels understated and honest. A beautiful comic that’s almost guaranteed to devastate a lot of readers when it ends later this year.
What was I just saying about devastating readers? The Love Bunglers — a storyline from Love & Rockets by Jaime Hernandez that builds on literal decades of stories and still holds up as a standalone work — is far from a feel-good romance, but it is a very (brutally) honest one, and something that feels like a great romance for older, somewhat more cynical readers who still wear their hearts on their sleeves. It might not leave you with happy ever afters, but it’s all the better for that honesty.
You can’t keep a good story down, as seen by the overwhelming success of Rachel Smythe’s Lore Olympus — a contemporary retelling of the Greek myth of Persephone, and the, shall we say, complicated relationship between her and the king of the underworld, Hades. Pairing the literally mythic scope of the narrative with Smythe’s lively, personal writing and breathtaking artwork, it’s easy to see why audiences across the world have fallen for this series. (Spoilers: it’s not going to end well… but that’s something that’s been out there for literally centuries by this point.)
Sure, we’ve all had our problems when it comes to relationships — but few of us have discovered that, when touched by someone of the opposite sex, we turn into literal animals. Pity poor Tohru Honda, in that case, who comes face to face with that very issue… and somehow manages to overcome, thanks to patience, good humor, and a kind heart. Is this a ridiculous manga that’s part-supernatural, part-relationship guide? Well… maybe a little, even if that last part isn’t entirely intentional from the outset.
What’s that, you say? Mister Miracle isn’t a romance comic? Well, sure, if you go by the fact that it was initially created and promoted as an adventure epic from the mind (and hand!) of none other than Jack Kirby — but I’d argue that as soon as Barda showed up, the series very much turned into one of the finest romances that western comics have produced — and, for that matter, that Scott and Barda are very much one of comics’ finest couples, period.
To end with, something a little different: this collection of classic British romance comics from the mid-20th century is corny, cliche-ridden, and one of the most beautiful comic books you’ll have seen in a long time. Think of it as rediscovering part of the past you didn’t even know existed, and then finding yourself conflicted over whether or not times have changed. On the one hand, the writing is more complicated, on the other, just look at the astonishing artwork. Comics to fall in love with.
Happy Valentine's! To get you into the season of romance, here's our guide to our six best romantic movies to watch on Netflix and six best romantic shows to binge for the big occassion. If you're a reader here's our six best romantic comics to check out for V-day. Or if you want something a little more off beat, why not check out our six tips for surviving a date with Deadpool? If that doesn't sound horrific enough, we've got six horror movies to enjoy during Valentine's day.