Originally published at InfiniteComix.com
Romance comics used to be huge for the industry. Legends such as Jack Kirby, Joe Simon, and John Romita Sr. cut their teeth producing tales of young love rather than the superhero lore that would immortalize them. Despite being a footnote in the careers of these industry titans, they are looked back at as some of the most well-written content of the Golden and Silver Ages. It is in that spirit that new publisher Rosy Press, lead by Janelle Asselin, is attempting a revival of the romance genre with Fresh Romance #1. This first issue in an ongoing anthology series features stories from creative talents such as Sarah Vaughn (Alex + Ada) and Kate Leth (Adventure Time).
Fresh Romance breaks the mold of most anthology comics, which typically feature a varying number of complete, done-in-one stories. This it’s a format that has served the industry well over the years, pumping out high-quality content such as Vertigo Quarterly and Dark Horse Presents. Instead, Fresh Romance combines the variety offered from a traditional anthology with the long-form storytelling of a typical monthly comic. Each of the issue’s three stories end on cliffhangers, meaning readers will have to continue to pick up the series if they want to see the resolution. It’s a tactic which is surprisingly underused for this type of book.
The stories themselves are rather engaging, albeit quick reads. This isn’t surprising since each story clocks in at around 10 pages. Furthermore, each story has one distinguishing feature that makes it stand apart from the other two. “School Spirit” by Katie Leth, Arielle Jovellanos, and Amanda Scurti is the strongest from an artistic standpoint. Jovellanos’ wonderfully expressive style, along with Scurti’s vibrant colors, cause the story to pop of the page and seize the attention of readers. There is a dearth of background detail, but it is hardly enough to curtail one’s enjoyment. Sarah Vaughn and Sara Winifred Searle’s “Ruined” has arguably the strongest narrative thanks to the multiple plot threads that are shrouded in mystery. “The Ruby Equation” by Sarah Kuhn, Sally Jane Thompson, and Savanna Ganucheau might be the best written or illustrated, but it is certainly the most fun. The story’s jovial tone lets readers finish the anthology with a smile on their face. If there is a complaint, it’s that the stories could have been a little longer given the $4.99 price point.
Fresh Romance #1 is a solid first foray from Rosy Press. With three stories of varying tone, readers should be able to find something to their taste. There is also a good amount of bonus material, including an introductory letter from editor Janelle Asselin, a breakdown on the creation of Kevin Wada and Erin Scott’s beautiful cover, character designs, and even a love advice column. Those looking for more love from their comics will be hard pressed to pass this one up.