Finally, romance for straight people. Nick’s Valentine’s Day Picks

Comics may be known for the BIFF! POW! ZAP! sort of dire situations our heroes face most of the time. But this week, let’s talk about the other place where heroes get hit–their hearts. (Editor’s note: Except for Vision, who is heart-free in ’93)

The obvious choice of a love story on the shelves right now is Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staple’s SAGA. If your biggest problem with ROMEO & JULIET when you read it in high school was that it wasn’t set in outer space and with way more nudity/violence/spaceship battles, I have extremely good news for you. Marko and Alana’s story will break your heart and make you laugh, often in the same panel. And there’s not one, not two, not even three, but a whopping four trades worth of story already out there to read.

Meanwhile, Jaime Hernandez put one more milestone in the life of his protagonist, Maggie the erstwhile Mechanic, with his graphic novel THE LOVE BUNGLERS. Following Maggie from her earliest heartbreaks through midlife compromises into a middle age of peace, The Love Bunglers feels like the moment that Jaime has been building to for the last thirty years with his LOVE & ROCKETS tales, and it’s truly a book to treasure.

If you’re looking for something futuristic without all manner of alien life forms, check out Jeff Lemire’s latest mindbender. TRILLIUM is a love story where one of the heroes is a scientist in the 30th century trying to save mankind, and the other is a young man who’s just returned from World War I. A true experiment in narrative, form, and a surge forward in Lemire’s artistic style, this book will keep you chewing on it for days.

For more of a flight of fancy, pick up Bill Willingham’s FABLES. Currently wrapping up it’s 130+ issue run, Fables features many bitter romances (e.g. Bluebear + Rose Red, Prince Charming + Everyone), but it also tells the story of Bigby Wolf and Snow White, two unlikely lovers who find a nobility in each other that the rest of Fabletown seems to lack. Fair warning: If you pick up the first trade of Fables, you might just have to come in and get the next 19.

There are plenty of manga out there specifically focusing on romantic plots, some zany (I DON’T LIKE YOU AT ALL BIG BROTHER!), some very down to earth (WHAT DID YOU EAT YESTERDAY?), but my personal favorite is the major subplot in AKIRA of cycle-gang-leader Kaneda winning over the affections of revolutionary Kei.

BLANKETS by Craig Thompson is one of the all-time greats of comic book memoir, telling the story of young Craig and his discovery of love with Raina among harsh winters and harsh losses with his brother Phil. The entire book is done in a stark black and white, with intricate splashes that will take you by surprise. It’ll be sure to bring a tear to your eye, but fear not: you’ll be smiling through it all. (Editor’s note: This makes me miss my teeth…)

Of course, there’s the indie darling of the last year, Matt Fraction and Chips Zdarsky’s SEX CRIMINALS. I don’t know what I can say about this book that hasn’t already been said; it’s the funniest book on the shelves and it touches on issues of sex positivity, heinous corporate assholes who want to close down the library, poopin’ at work, and the awkward magic that is a sexual relationship. It’s a cool 10 bucks for the first trade.

Last but not least, my own personal favorite relationship in superhero comics (sorry, Reed and Sue): Tony Stark and Pepper Potts. In my opinion, this relationship hit its stride in Fraction’s INVINCIBLE IRON MAN run. It was here that Tony and Pepper admitted they had feelings for each other, Tony made Pepper her R.E.S.C.U.E. suit, and they weathered a lot of personal and professional storms. It was a relationship that felt real, and not as dreamlike as it tends to be for a relationship in comics.

Like the man says, Love is All Around, you just have to know where to look.

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