Fresh Romance, the romantic comics zine from Rosy Press, is a real treat to read.
It feels like meeting your best friend. You’ll catch yourself thinking, I’ve been looking for you everywhere. I’m so glad I found you!
It’s your teenage fantasies packaged in a way that’s palatable to an adult reader, without alienating actual teenagers. It never feels too grown up but also treats readers with respect–no one is too mature for this zine. Do keep in mind, Fresh Romance is rated R–and as of issue 4, does contain on-page sexual content. Thus far, it has been handled tastefully, or as tastefully as comic book sex ever is. So far it hasn’t been gratuitous, which is great because-
The characters are the kids you knew growing up. This is your best friend and little sister. Each one has struggles, wishes and desires that aren’t often outright showcased in modern fiction. “School Spirit” has a interracial lesbian couple, and a girl whose fathers are gay wizards. “The Ruby Equation” has what could potentially end up being an ace character, though I’ll acknowledge that might just be my hopes and dreams talking. “Ruined” is the most traditional of the three, a regency-era romance about a young couple getting married, and neither of the two is particularly pleased.
To be honest, “Ruined” (created by Sarah Vaughn, Sarah Winifred Searle, and Ryan Ferrier) is my least favorite so far. While I do like it, I’ve never been the biggest fan of historical romances. This is definitely something that’s likely to change in the near future, as issue four has been my favorite thus far. The first two issues just let us know that Catherine, our protagonist, had something with a man the summer before, and it’s heavily implied, if not outright stated, that they’ve had sex. Issue 4 outright confirms this, after Catherine and Andrew attempt to consummate their marriage and fail.
This was my favorite scene in the comic so far, because I got irrationally happy about Catherine’s pubic hair. I’m glad she had it. We’re starting to get into the reason Fresh Romance is rated R, but it’s still not very steamy. Catherine and Andrew do take off all of their clothes and there is full-frontal nudity. Clearly the slowest paced out of all of the stories, “Ruined” definitely has the potential to grow into something really great.
“The Ruby Equation” (created by Sarah Kuhn, Sally Jane Thompson, Savanna Ganucheau and Steve Wands) is super fun, and has been consistent throughout. The story has been evolving at a steady pace, and each segment clearly builds upon the previous one. It tells the story of a barista who was sent to earth to make matches. She’s been cheating using a mathematical equation, and so upon making what she thinks will be her final match, her application to return home is rejected, and she’s told she must make one truly meaningful match.
I love how unique this is–the story doesn’t revolve around a couple, but around a matchmaker, and about her growing to believe in true love, instead of mathematical equations. I’m hoping that while Ruby comes to believe in love, she doesn’t fall in love herself–I love the idea of an an asexual romance protagonist. Ultimately, this unique perspective is what I love the most about “The Ruby Equation.”
Lastly, “School Spirit” (created by Arielle Jovellanos, Kate Leth, Amanda Scurti and Taylor Esposito) is my favorite. It’s got everything I look for in my ideal romance – multiple couples, established relationships, queer girls, and magic. About two couples who are keeping their relationship status secret for various reasons, it’s also about a group of friends in their final year of high school, and it has all the important hijinks. Thus far, each segment has felt something like a one-shot. While the first two issues flowed seamlessly into each other, issues three and four felt more disjointed. I’m also unsure of where it’s headed. While each of the characters have issues, I’m not sure where this is going–why this specific story is being told.
There’s a lot that’s been packed into the stories thus far, true, and every panel manages to cram in some little important piece of character or story. Everything feels important, from the lettering to the coloring to the art and story, and it’s all wonderful. But because there are three ongoing stories in one monthly zine, each only gives you a little taste. This rather works to it’s benefit–there’s no way you’re going to let an issue get away from you. Readers are much more likely to snap up issues as quickly as they can.
The extra matter in each zine is also really great–the Divorcee Club advice column is both chock full of great advice, and a lot of fun. Each issue also features an article on a different topic, ranging from a defense of slash shipping to how to achieve the elusive female orgasm. They’re all well-informed and highly interesting, another gem in what’s across the board a great zine.
The only thing that bugs me is that I can’t get it physically. As much as I adore reading digitally, there’s just something so insanely satisfying about reading a physical copy. I sincerely hope this zine goes on forever, and gets collected into pretty bound editions. Can you imagine how nice that would look on your bookshelf? I’m telling you, it would look marvelous.
In short, Fresh Romance is a bright, zingy read that’s marvelous to pick up each month, and I encourage you to pick it up, and if possible, subscribe. It’s well worth it. I get my copies from Comixology, but it’s also available from rosypress.com.