By: Too many to list—check out the review.
The Story: Superhero love is a many-splendored thing…
The Review: Young Romance is one of those titles that a proper reviewer probably should feel a little bit of embarrassment about reading, given its hopelessly gimmicky nature. Even so, I do kind of like the grab-bag format of these things, and I appreciate that DC has enough of a sense of humor to do something this cheesy. Besides, with the mix of talent involved, you never know if you might run into a gem of a feature, promising better things from the creators involved.
If you want a comic dedicated to DC’s great lovers, it doesn’t get more classic than Batman and Catwoman. Ann Nocenti has the honor of delivering their couple’s origin story for a new generation, but gets frustrated by her page limit. The confrontation between bat and cat should have more time to develop their chemistry, but instead Nocenti suddenly finds herself having to sum up the rest of the encounter on the final page. You don’t associate wistfulness with Selina, but it makes for a sweet and appropriate ending to the ball-buster’s love story. Meanwhile, Emanuela Lupacchino (with Jaime Mendoza on inks and Gabe Eltaeb on colors) provides lush, tasteful art that yearns to do more than what she’s given.
In some ways, I understand the desire to split some of these superhero marriages up; monogamy tends to close off a major source of story, which can be deadly if writers don’t know how to inject new tension into the relationship. Cecil Castellucci runs into that very problem when she uses star-crossed lovers Felicity and Samuel as stand-ins for Mera and Aquaman. The thing is, destiny can be a bit boring; once the meet-cute is over, all that’s left is to find increasingly angsty ways to keep them apart, which all parties in this feature suffer. At least you have Inaki Miranda and Eva De La Cruz bringing the pretty to the epistolary feature, melodramatic as it is (“I tremble at the thought of seeing you again.”).
Who knew that the hapless Ricky from the mostly dreadful “Knightfall” arc on Batgirl would end up looming so large in her life? I don’t know; a kiss to ward off the antagonism of Ricky’s die-hard gangster brother is one thing, but once Babs throws caution to the wind and gives him a second go, “[j]ust for fun,” that indicates real interest—one that she has no intention of truly pursuing, which just makes her seem a bit mean. Even a one-legged dork with a half-mullet has feelings, Babs. For that reason, it’s a relief to know Ray Fawkes won’t be writing Batgirl long-term after all; the competent but forgettable art of Julius Gopez (with Nathan Eyring, colors) can look elsewhere for work.
Peter Milligan has the luxury of writing Apollo and Midnighter, characters already under his wing on Stormwatch, so he can afford to use his feature to create an actual development in their relationship. “Seoul Brothers” also has the distinction of being the most interesting and riskiest of all the pieces in this issue, exploring a more flamboyant part of gay culture that mainstream comics would rather suburbanize. For the most part, Milligan pulls it off rather thoughtfully, and with Simon Bisley’s rough, outlandish art and Brian Buccellato’s gritty colors, this feature is definitely the most sophisticated offering from an otherwise saccharine book.
The perfect palette-cleanser to follow up on Milligan’s tale is one by Kyle Higgins starring the ever happy-go-lucky but somewhat unlucky Nightwing. I don’t know who this Ursa Major is, whether she’s an established character in his ongoing series or one crafted for this very feature, but she makes a viable romantic interest for Dick Grayson. Her bear-themed design shows off both sides of her appeal: toughness and cuteness, and Sanford Greene’s sleek, anime-like lines (with Andrew Dalhouse’s delicate colors) puts her and the agile Nightwing in the best light possible, whether in action or on a rooftop eating carryout Chinese food.
While it makes total sense for DC to close out the book with the biggest power(house) couple of all, “Truth or Dare” only seems to provide further evidence that there really isn’t much point to coupling Superman and Wonder Woman. It’s purely cliché for Clark to say that he likes that he can be himself around Diana instead of hiding his true identity, and his final assurance to her that he loves her of his own will, not because he’s forced to, seems like Andy Diggle using Clark as a voicebox for DC editorial. Uneven and predictable, with less-than-stellar art from Robson Rocha, Julio Ferreira (inks), and Marcelo Maiolo (colors), this feature embodies your most cynical, critical expectations of Young Romance.
Conclusion: A pleasant read, though not a very memorable one, with far better art (in most instances) than story, though you do get a few interesting pieces out of there.
– Minhquan Nguyen
Some Musings: - Whoof. So many sweaty third-grade flashbacks from those cardboard valentines in the centerfold. I still remember when Rachel Turner actually gave me back the Garfield card I gave her at Mr. Lee’s class party. I ate a lot of hopelessly sugary cupcakes that day. As an epilogue, I’ll just say that I met her again when I was an undergrad, and the first thing she said to me was, “Hey, good to see you.” The second thing she said to me was, “Those are ugly sandals.”