Back in the beginning of June, you might remember that I talked about the first issue of the romance comics anthology Fresh Romance, with it’s trio of stories by Kate Leth, Sarah Vaughn and Sarah Kuhn and how much I enjoyed that issue. Well, Fresh Romance #2 comes out this week and I checked it out and loved it twice as much as I loved the first issue (and I loved the first issue a lot).
The first comic, “School Spirit” is definitely the highlight for me. It’s romantic but not clichéd, clever but not convoluted and spooky but never un-fun. It’s just sappy enough to make the teens seem realistic. There are very real stakes (each of the couples being caught by their parents, and then their parents disapproving and forcing them to stop seeing each other), but they aren’t the kind that will stress you out. It makes for the perfect summer read.
Leth has managed to wonderfully capture the soul of teenage romances, her story hits all the marks that you’d want to see, sneaking around, overbearing but well meaning parents, angst and of course head over heels lovebirds. Arielle Jovellanos’ art just adds to it. There’s something very reminiscent of Archie comics in this story, and the art is a big reason for that. There’s a timeless feel to the story and to the way the characters dress and look.
The team has also done a wonderful job of integrating the supernatural elements. And they’re perhaps hinting at Malie being a werewolf with that full moon panel, her having the pet name “monster” and Justine’s insistence that they hurry and get home because it’s getting late. Or maybe she’s a werecat, and those cat puns were more than just cutesy flirting. Or maybe she just has a strict bedtime.
“Ruined” also has its claws sharply and deeply in me. Just like Leth did with high school romance in “School Spirit”, Vaughn is doing s terrific job at capturing what makes Regency tales so beloved. Our heroine is so easy to empathize with and one can’t help but hope she finds true love. Actually, I’m kind of quickly falling in love with this comic. And the art! Sarah Winifred Searle is doing such an amazing job at making it really feel like a classic Regency tale, but it also seems really modern and fresh. Catherine, our heroine, is definitely harboring some sort of secret, but what is it? Is she perhaps trans or intersex? She says that no proper man would have a girl like her. I also love what “secret” they gave her sister, Mary. There’s a conversation between the two where they talk about how their parents had “two disappointments in a row” that was absolutely brilliant.
The third story, “The Ruby Equation” has a lot of charm too. Kuhn and artist Sally Jane Thompson have made a really great addition to the modern fairytale/coffee shop au genre. Thompson’s art is definitely the brightest of the three comics, and that makes it seem like the most light-hearted, and in many ways it is, but it’s no less quality. Kuhn continues to use the very clever structure of a magical cupid-like love-granting fairy trying to earn her way to a better job to tell one of the oldest tales in all of romance — that of “a truly swoony romance involving an individual who’s given up on love entirely.”
That’s one of the things that makes this series so great, these are all extremely familiar genres and modes of telling romantic stories. So reading them is cozy and comfortable, but they each have enough creativity and originality to make them compelling and exciting. Fresh Romance #2 shows that the first issue wasn’t a fluke, and actually even improves upon the debut, building much deeper and richer stories of romance in many forms. The stories are paced wonderfully and do a tremendous job at demanding that you pick up the next issue, which I definitely can’t wait to do.
In case all of these beautiful words weren’t enough to convince you to check out this second issue (available now on Comixology and the Rosy Press website), here’s a special three page sneak peek of Kate Leth and Arielle Jovellanos’ “School Spirit” for your enjoyment (seriously, go and buy this right now!!!)!
New Releases (July 1)
Help Us! Great Warrior (Boom!)
Detective Comics #42 (DC)
Swords of Sorrow: Dejah Thoris/Irene Adler #2 (Dynamite)
X-Files Season 10 #25 (IDW)
The Wicked + The Divine #12 (Image)
A-Force #2 (Marvel)
Princess Leia #5 (Marvel)
Runaways: The Complete Collection Vol. 4 TP (Marvel)
Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #7 (Marvel)
Years of Future Past #2 (Marvel)
Welcome to Drawn to Comics! From diary comics to superheroes, from webcomics to graphic novels – this is where we’ll be taking a look at comics by, featuring and for queer ladies. So whether you love to look at detailed personal accounts of other people’s lives, explore new and creative worlds, or you just love to see hot ladies in spandex, we’ve got something for you.
If you have a comic that you’d like to see me review, you can email me at mey [at] autostraddle [dot] com