Coming Out of My Cage: Twisted Romance #4

Twisted Romance #4, Image Comics, 2018

Twisted Romance #4

Alex de Campi, Sarah Winifred Searle, Naomi Salman (writers), Sarah Winifred Searle, Trungles (artists)
Image Comics
February 28, 2018

The final issue of Twisted Romance features an incredible cover from Trungles, promising you a lush fairytale with a princess, a dragon, and beautiful swirls and curls in the art. Alex de Campi, the mind behind the title, has been excellent in matching artist to story, and this is no exception. Trungles has a delicate touch, perfect for storybook illustrations that feel both classic and fresh.

Twisted Romance, Trungles, Image Comics, 2018

“Treasured” is a fairytale about an average princess who doesn’t want to grow up, and the dragon who lures her in and tricks her into becoming his treasure. There are amazing highs at the beginning—the dragon is everything she’d hoped for, the opposite of dull courtly life and a promise of freedom and adventures. But eventually the dragon grows tired of cavorting and instead wants to go back to his hoard, keeping his princess locked up so only he may enjoy her company.

So, just like every fairytale, it’s about a princess and a dragon, but also something darker—about men who prey on young women, cage them up in an abusive relationship where they’re isolated and hidden. Who train them to feel afraid and small and like they’re the ones to blame—if only they were beautiful, or kinder, or sweeter, their dragon would let them see the sun again.

The abusive relationship between girl and dragon is twisted, but thankfully isn’t the romance indicated in the title. The cover has one more player—the spider—and while he aids the princess in her escape, it’s she who must use the tools she has to free herself.

Despite its dark undertones, de Campi’s fable is light and easy to read. The dragon thrums with menace under Trungle’s careful and steady linework. His art here feels like Maxfield Parrish meets CLAMP—stylized and detailed and beautiful, but full of classic composition that makes it feel familiar and new at the same time. It’s really not to be missed.

Naomi Salman provides the prose portion of this issue with “Unbound,” a story about Delio, a young man trying to get his life in order and his enigmatic neighbor Lee who runs a sex club. Well, sort of—he runs a rope bondage club, specifically. Delio’s intrigued but still new to being able to feel and want things after a spell of bad luck.

Salman’s story is a slow burn, almost too slow for me—the story is stuck tight in Delio’s POV and he spends much of it alone, eventually thinking wistfully of Lee of the long hair and delicate face. I wanted them to interact a little more before the inevitable climax of getting tied up, but once it happens it’s certainly satisfying.

The backup comic, “Legacies,” by Sarah Winifred Searle, is a queer twist on fantastical destinies. We start in medias res, right in the middle of a battle against a robot and a woman who wants to kill “the queen’s reincarnation.” There are familiar fantasy tropes here: a magical talking animal, sidekicks, a destined love affair, a “mundane” regular life to contrast the nights of fighting magic. But even though the romance is cute—Poppy, she of the magical destiny, is enamoured with Ivy, her normal friend from college—the different story elements feel jumbled and rushed.

Searle’s art is stronger than her script, cute and soft, with lovely colors and linework. The characters all have distinct personalities in their design, which really helps sell the tale. However, a lack of backgrounds in the opening scene and the final scene leaves the main characters feeling like they’re floating in space.

Overall, Twisted Romance #4 is more than enough bang for its buck—Trungles’ art alone is worth the cover price, and romances in all three pieces are lovely, comforting gems.

Kat Overland

Kat Overland

Small press editor Kat Overland is a displaced Texan now living in Washington, DC, where she is perpetually behind on reading her pull list. She's a millennial, Latina, exhausted, and can often be spotted casually cosplaying America Chavez and complaining.