Twisted Romance #2

Alejandra Gutierrez (artist, “Twinkle & The Star”), Alex de Campi (writer, “Twinkle & The Star), Vita Ayala (“Back at Your Door”), Meredith McLaren (writer/artist, “Would You Even Know It?”)
Image Comics
February 14, 2018

Reports of romance comics’ death have always been greatly exaggerated. Crying white women pining over hunks in four-color dots no longer grace magazine racks and comic book store walls. But between long-running titles like Love and Rockets and Strangers in Paradise and Kickstarter anthologies like Strange Romance and The Other Side, the independent scene has always been telling stories of love and heartbreak. It doesn’t surprise me that an anthology mini-series like Twisted Romance exists—but I do find the extent of just how different it tries to be pretty impressive.

twisted romance

All three stories in this issue start out with a very conventional hook, but end up in a very unconventional place. In Alex de Campi and Alejandra Gutierrez’s “Twinkle & The Star,” the eponymous Twinkle works in a modeling studio editing photos and going on coffee runs for models and co-workers who are much thinner, taller, and conventionally prettier than her. So of course she is surprised when movie star Nick Powell seems to take a shine to her. However, as their relationship progresses it becomes clear that Nick has a secret. I won’t spoil, but I will say that I haven’t read of this type of relationship outside of fanfiction, and like in those stories I have a question about how the relationship is negotiated in the future. That being said, Gutierrez’s design of Twinkle—with her big hips, purple ponytail, and cool hipster clothing—is very adorable. It could have been very, very easy and very, very typical if Nick just preferred a girl who looked like Twinkle, but with the ending of the story you know that Nick truly does like her for her personality.

In a similar vein, the text-only short story “Back at Your Door” sets up what seems like a typical love triangle—even if all three angles are young college women and the heroine is Hispanic. At the beginning of the story, Luz Lopez meets and soon finds herself falling in love with Adrienne Carter, a blunt-but-flirty girl who offers to help Luz out with her logic homework. However, a wrench is thrown into any coupling when Luz’s childhood crush Maddie Anderson comes to Luz’s college and isn’t as straight as she initially thought. Luz is crushed when Adrienne finds Maddie pretty too, but Luz may not end up being the third wheel. I have to admit I saw the ending coming. I also got frustrated with Luz a bit during the course of the story—I understand she’s meek when it comes to love but her indecision seemed to artificially slow down the story. That being said, I imagine the ending will feel incredibly satisfying to people in similar relationships and it is very sweet.

In some ways Meredith McClaren’s “Would You Even Know It?” is the most conventional story, and that one features a woman and an AI developing a relationship. Granted, most stories about the singularity (like the movie Her) involve a white man falling in love with a feminized AI, so the fact that this story features a dark-skinned woman and an AI with no gender or even a name is probably more off-the-beaten path than I’m giving it credit for. The story doesn’t have much of a plot, and for the most part the characters just discuss the intricacies of intelligence and the nature of love. Yet their conversations are interesting and the art is very cute, drawn in a unique style that reminds me a bit of construction paper cut-outs.

In general, I found the anthology fine, but I also think that for a lot of people who aren’t well-served by traditional or even not-so-traditional romance comics it has the potential to offer something very unique. I didn’t fall in love, but I found Twisted Romance interesting, and what else can you hope for from a first date?