In Alice in Leatherland #1, a young writer finds herself on an adventure after suffering a broken heart. Alice is an idealist and a romantic at her core. But can she keep up her spirits when she moves out of her comfort zone?
Alice in Leatherland #1
Elisa Romboli (Artist), Iolanda Zanfardino (Writer)
Black Mask Studios
April 7, 2021
Alice in Leatherland #1 is an unabashedly queer, diverse, and kinky comic. Our protagonist, Alice, a children’s fairy tale writer, is a happy queer woman in what we learn is a one-sided relationship. Her partner, whom we meet briefly, is not as into Alice as Alice is into her.
This is a crucial aspect of Alice’s personality. She’s clearly an optimist who’s been taken in by the romantic notions so often espoused in fiction. Alice truly believes that she is in the right place, and with the right person, and she isn’t ready to budge.
Until it all falls apart, of course, and Alice realises that going on an adventure is the best way to get over heartbreak. Alice’s adventure happens via her friend and artistic collaborator, Robin. When Alice in Leatherland #1 opens, Robin is moving to San Francisco for a dream job.
The art heavily hints at Robin maybe having more than friendly feelings for Alice. I love me some queer yearning—when there’s potential for it to be reciprocated—so I am totally down for this dynamic. I sincerely hope that by the end of this five-issue mini-series, Alice and Robin end up together. I ship them and it’s only the first book!
The queer theme continues right till the end of the issue when we meet the rest of the characters. I won’t spoil it, but I love how Alice in Leatherland #1 hints that one particular character is queer. It’s tucked away in a corner, but it’s really smartly done.
One of the things that always bothered me about the way marginalized characters are depicted in media is how often they’re the only one from their community. I love that Alice in Leatherland #1 doesn’t do this. Queer people don’t want to be the only queer person in their friends’ group—they will seek out other queer people to be comfortable with. And this book represents that, which is great!
I like the diverse ethnicities in this first issue. Alice is Black, and we meet characters who are Hispanic and South-East Asian later in the book. So far, the characters’ heritages haven’t really been mentioned. Are these characters simply diverse-looking or are they representative of the communities they belong to? I’m not sure yet. While I like seeing different ethnicities represented in comics and I’m glad Alice in Leatherland #1 has so many characters of colour, I’m not totally sold on the execution.
I am a bit concerned about a word that is considered a slur being written on one of the characters. I don’t know what the intention is here—the character has a lot of insults written on their body as part of an art project. But the racialized slur did stick out to me. It could be an intentional part of the story and might be explained later on but it made me uncomfortable.
On the other hand, I am pleased that Alice is fat. Fat representation is one area where every aspect of media seems to be failing so it’s great to see a fat character in the lead. And her weight isn’t brought up once. Alice is just a person, who happens to be fat. I love it!
Now, for the kink part. The ‘leatherland’ in the title does kind of give it away but the kink actually comes in much later in this opening issue that I expected. It ends up reading as this hilarious comedy of errors, which was fun. Alice wanted to get out of her comfort zone, and by the end of Alice in Leatherland #1, her comfort zone is a distant memory.
For a series billed as a rom-com, this first issue leant pretty heavily on sadness. Alice is unhappy, and rightfully so. Her romantic dreams come crashing down around her and she can barely even get a decent night’s sleep in San Francisco to help her get through her blues.
I know the rest of the series will pick up in terms of romance and comedy, but in this opening arc, I just wanted to give Alice a big hug. I love when I feel so connected to a character. It makes me want to read more of the series.
The art plays a big part in my enjoyment of Alice in Leatherland #1. Writer Iolanda Zanfardino and artist Elisa Romboli are a real-life couple who created this series because they were sheltering at home during the pandemic. Their dynamic comes through brilliantly on the page. Romboli isn’t illustrating the story here; she’s telling it alongside Zanfardino.
There’s an absolutely fantastic page with no dialogue that tells us so much through the art, both in the background and character work. This is the kind of text-art synchronicity that makes comics such a unique medium. I love how it plays out in this book and I can’t wait to see more in the remainder of the series.
Alice in Leatherland #1 has set the stage for an engaging and fun story, that is super-queer and very kinky. While I’m not sure about the ethnic representation in this book, I am glad to see characters of colour take centre stage in the series. I’m looking forward to reading more.