In Alice in Leatherland #4, protagonist Alice Snowhite goes on more miserable app dates until she realises what she’s looking for can’t be found in other people. It’s time to take a good long look in the mirror.
Alice in Leatherland #4
Elisa Romboli (Artist), Iolanda Zanfardino (Writer)
Black Mask Studios
July 21, 2021
I’ve been following this series since the first issue, so, obviously, I couldn’t wait to review Alice in Leatherland #4. Let me start by saying that all my predictions while reading issue 3 were completely off-base. I have never been so wrong in my life! I had assumed the events of the previous installment would herald the start of my Alice/ Robin ship. But that ship seems to have sunk barely a few pages into this issue. I am devastated, I tell you!
Robin isn’t an easy character to understand. Her set of rules to live, love, and date by are very odd. Robin is all for one-night stands as long as her partner doesn’t stay the night. She gets extremely offensive when one poor woman falls asleep—even though Robin’s lying there right next to her. Is it any wonder that Robin, for all her charms, is still alone?
I can’t help but wonder if Robin’s behaviour in Alice in Leatherland #4 has something to do with her unrequited feelings for Alice? Robin has clearly been carrying a torch for Alice for a while now, probably even while Alice was in her previous long-term relationship. While I applaud Robin for not trying to swoop in while Alice was still recovering from heartbreak, why has Robin not made her feelings clear by now? This is the slowest of slow-burns and as much fun as that is, it’s the penultimate issue of the series and Robin is becoming more of an obstacle for herself than anything else. My ship truly has sunk, methinks.
I’d feel better about my sinking ship if either Alice or Robin could find happiness with other people. While Robin is busy sabotaging herself, Alice is still trying to put herself out there in the hopes of finding her Princess Charming. If Alice’s exploits were hilarious in the previous issue, they ramp up on the hilarity here.
I’ve read so many stories about astrology-enthusiasts on dating apps and Alice in Leatherland #4 takes this trope to new heights. Poor Alice meets up with one such enthusiast, who is not only desperate to read Alice’s chart, but is also absolutely certain that the two of them are destined to be together.
In a delightful page of horizontal panels, we see Alice struggling to escape the clutches of this woman who is one step away from naming their future pets. Elisa Romboli’s art has been delight this entire series and this page had me cry-laughing. The unadulterated delight on the date’s face, coupled with her obliviousness to Alice’s escape attempts were so realistic, I felt like I was sitting opposite them in the café. Alice’s increasing desperation as her date holds onto her hand, practically pulling Alice out of her seat, were so fluid and full of movement, I could have been looking at an animated film. Romboli has an excellent understanding of how the eye moves over the comic page—every panel in that page of Alice in Leatherland #4 showed the appropriate amount of movement so the eye has no choice but to follow down the page. This series has been a testament to the strength of the comic medium and Romboli’s expertise.
Romboli’s art isn’t just beautiful, but it is such an important part of the storytelling. Once again, important moments take place completely without dialogue and move the plot forward. In previous issues, the art showed us characters bonding and sharing stories. In Alice in Leatherland #4, its Alice silently judging Robin’s decisions, which causes another huge rift between the friends and once again sinks my ship. I am really not over this.
What I like about this series is that the characters are so human, in the sense that they do change and grow, but it’s not like the text forgets who they used to be. Alice has always been a romantic at heart, but she’s also a bit of a prude. Alice’s attitudes have changed considerably since she moved in with her kink-forward roommates and started working at a sex store, but she can’t quite help being a bit judgemental about Robin’s promiscuity. Some habits die hard and it’s unfortunate that Alice hasn’t quite managed to get rid of her more prudish impulses. But she is making progress, which is good.
By the end of Alice in Leatherland #4, whatever hope I had for Alice and Robin getting together had dissolved completely. However, writer Iolanda Zanfardino throws in an unexpected but welcome twist that may soothe my broken heart. I think one of the reasons I’ve always struggled with romance stories is that so many of them are based on being loved and accepted by an exterior force. While that’s great and validating, it’s not very realistic. There needs to be a strong foundation within a person to get to that self-acceptance stage. The few romance stories I’ve read and watched, either straight or queer ones, don’t seem to give characters room to find themselves. It’s so often about the person they’re in love with. That’s a trope of the genre, and it’s fine, but it doesn’t work for me. All signs point to Alice in Leatherland taking a different route for both Alice and Robin, though. And I love it!
I’ve been enjoying this series and the prospect of an unconventional ending makes the close of this series that much more exciting for me. Alice has been a fantastic character to know and love. Everyone around her is a joy to read—even if they make choices that make their own lives difficult, as Robin does. I thought I knew where this series was going but Alice in Leatherland #4 has thrown a spanner in the works—in the best way possible. I can’t even begin to predict what will happen in the finale and that is exactly what I want.