Smalerie Reads: Valentine's Day Comics
Regardless of how you might feel about Valentine’s Day, it can be hard to ignore. Especially since all the candy and Valentine's Day “goodies” have been on the shelves since New Year’s. And since I’ve posted a couple times now about holiday themed comics, I figured it might be time for Saint Valentine’s Day to get its due.
Batman: Mad Love and Other Stories- Paul Dini, Bruce Timm
A classic is a classic for a reason, and if you’re hoping to avoid the kind of storybook-sweet love that can be so prevalent around Valentine's Day, then this might be just what you need. A collection of stories from the creators of the beloved Batman: The Animated Series, there really isn’t anything bad to say about this book. The main star of the collection is "Mad Love," the Eisner Award-winning origin story of the extremely popular Harley Quinn. This is pure, classic Harley, before the New 52 and her two-tone hair. This Harley is both victim and villain, lovable and dangerous. You can’t go wrong here, and unlike many other comics collections, the additional stories are also solid - ranging from funny to heartbreaking. I particularly enjoyed the reprint of "Batman Adventures Annual" #1, which tells the stories of how several of the villains made an attempt to truly reform, but ultimately failed. These stories, while at times both funny and a little heartbreaking, are framed in a way that still manages to end the story with a bit of hope.
As for the artwork, most of it is very closely styled to the 90s Batman cartoons, and frankly, I love it. The colors are dramatic and filled with contrast. The lines are clean, resulting in easy to follow action sequences. Reading this was extremely enjoyable and contained enough variety to make it a really solid collection.
Harley Quinn Valentine's Day Special - Jimmy Palmiotti and Amanda Connor
Remember how I just mentioned the New 52 Harley and her two-tone hair? Well, it turns out that this Harley had a Valentine’s Day one-off. Full Disclosure: My take and review of this book is greatly influenced by my love of “original Harley” and the fact that I have not read any of her previous New 52 storylines. I dropped in from nowhere, and this is pretty much how it went.
I found it very hard to make heads or tails of this book for one simple reason: I don’t think even it knows what it wants to be. This Harley has has left Gotham, is living in NY, and is planning a heist with her friends so that she can buy a date with Bruce Wayne at a charity auction. While this is going on, there is also a side plot about some fish-themed villain who wants to kidnap Wayne, use him for ransom money, and then use that money to start a fish preserve. And in the middle of this Harley cares about innocent people and then stops caring about innocent people, and has at least two clunky set-ups just so that the book can feature dream sequences with guest artists.
While I understand completely that Harley herself is unpredictable and can go from caring to ruthless pretty fast, this Harley just felt undeveloped. For a Harley that was out there and finally established outside of her relationship with the Joker, I wanted her to feel lighter and have a bit more direction. On the other hand, I am perfectly willing to blame a lot of this on the actual writing which could at times feel both repetitive and clunky. This book never quite hit me right with the humor either. It was at times not to my taste, and other times it felt like gags were ones that I have seen a million times (oddly-themed inept villain and sidekick has been done before and done much better). While it is possible that my experience is missing something from not reading the previous issues, I won’t begrudge anyone this Harley, but she isn’t the Harley for me.
Ms. Marvel #12 - Valentine’s Day - G. Willow Wilson
I always find it hardest to write about things I really like. I feel like I just go through a checklist of things I want to see in a good book and then get stuck with nothing new or interesting to say. I'm going to try my best to do it justice because this issue checked off all my boxes and left me really excited to keep reading more of the Ms. Marvel trade paperbacks. Ms. Marvel Issue #12 is a really cute and fun one-shot between story arcs. Kamala has just saved a bunch of kids from becoming living batteries to power the evil plans of the Inventor, and Loki has been sent down from Asgard to make sure that all the loose ends are tied up. Problem is that Loki can’t stop himself from also getting involved in the school’s Valentine’s Day dance. I don’t want to ruin anything here, but I was really happy to see how they handled unrequited teenage love. Few things about the new Ms. Marvel are typical and obvious, but they are always fun. And so is this issue.
Young Romance: A New 52 Valentine’s Day Special #1 - Various
Out of all the books I read, this one contains more typical romantic love stories. Wonder Woman and Superman go out on a date, Catwoman dreams about her first encounter with Batman, blah blah blah. As someone who enjoys a good romance. I was surprised how many of these short stories hit me totally flat. That doesn’t mean there isn’t some good stuff in here, but I think lack of familiarity with some of the characters had a lot to do with it. It is hard to write a romance of a few pages, so already understanding the history between two characters can go a long way. Oddly enough, I think the best story was actually the “meet cute” between Nightwing and Ursa Major. The tone was fun and zippy, and didn’t depend on a detailed understanding of the backgrounds of either character. Overall, I would say that this book might be best enjoyed by someone who is a huge fan of everything DC more than someone who is a fan of romance.
Any great books that I left out? Wanna rant about Valentine's Day in general? Feel free to comment below. Oh, and stayed tuned for another Love/Romance themed post coming up soon!