All the star-crossed comics you should read with your Valentine
It’s here, it’s finally here! That annual holiday of candy hearts and swooping declarations of L-O-V-E, frantic flower orders and careful date planning. Or, for some of us: A day and night, like any other; or, a chance to start something “on theme” that you’d been meaning to do forever anyway.
Like, say, begin a new comic series — and as the world of comics is rich with intricate, fantastical, and gorgeous meditations on love, sex, and relationships, we thought we’d highlight some stories you can share with an SO (or start on your own):
Love and Rockets
The Hernandez brothers (Gilbert, Mario, and Jaime) created a legendary addition to the comics canon with Love & Rockets, and though their stories and styles have changed over the years (the series began in the ’80s), their central focus has always been on the intricacy and trickiness of human connection. Maggie and her sometimes-lover Hopey provide the beating heart at the comic’s very beginning, and set the tone for the twisted, delicious relationships that unfold within story arcs.
Start: Maggie the Mechanic
I’ve waxed poetic about Saga before, but it’s because very few series ever get to the level of daring at which Saga‘s story begins. The fact that this demented fantasy universe (seriously, the violence is capital-G Graphic and the sex is explicit and oftentimes extremely twisted) has won such a huge audience is a testament to its incredibly strong romance at the heart of its fucked-up core.
Start: Book One
This comic’s just starting out, but the central premise — Jonesy, a girl who can make anyone fall in love with anybody except her — is sure to touch on that intersection between relatable and #tooreal. Also, its kind of cynical premise is perfectly uplifted with bubbly, buoyant art, as well as a protagonist who you instinctively root for.
Start: Issue #1
Anyone who’s familiar with shoujo manga (female-oriented Japanese comics that focus heavily on love and relationships) knows that Nana is a masterpiece of the genre. What starts as an opposites-meet tale grows into something quieter but also deeper, a meditation on unexpected affection under all sorts of truly testing conditions.
Start: Volume 1
Cousins Mariko and Jillian Tamaki explore teen angst and confusing feelings in long, languid details. Jillian’s illustrations are lush webs of information, and the story is unflinching in how it views and dissects its imperfect but recognizable characters.
This iconic manga series has a plot that’s about as fanfiction-y as it gets. There’s gender-bending! There’s romantic intrigue! There’s plenty of thoughtful but no-less hilarious humor! And through it all, there’s Mizuki Ashiya, one of the coolest romantic protagonists of all time.
The premise of Scott Pilgrim sounds like a joke: In order to date the girl of his dreams, Scott has to fight and defeat all of her seven evil exes. It’s a gambit that could easily go sour and/or stale, but O’Malley’s deft pacing, razor-sharp dialogue, and understanding of the inherently messed up premise breathes exhilarating life into this now-classic comics tale.
Y: The Last Man
Full disclosure: Brian Vaughan also writes Saga, but Y: The Last Man is the series that, at least in my mind, cemented his legacy. The series takes a tired premise (what if you were the last man on Earth?) and breathes vital life into it by struggling with and thinking critically about its central conflicts: Of gender, of sex, of trust, of limits, of love.
Start: Book One