TWISTED ROMANCE #1 wants to be an anthology of dark love stories. However, it only succeeds once, as creativity overwhelms coherence in two of the three stories.
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Mixed Signals

TWISTED ROMANCE #1 is a four part Image mini-series designed to tell dark stories of love — ranging from horror-based romance to sci-fi. The first issue starts on the right track. However, the team chooses to be creative instead of consistent, and the issue suffers for it.

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Old Flames

The issue is separated into three stories centered around love and death.  I was eager to see not only how well the issue would deal with dark love stories but also how it would function as an anthology. The first story, “Old Flames,” starts things off quite well. Kate Skelly and Alex De Campi weave a tale of adultery and investigation with a supernatural twist.

Its protagonist, Meserov, works as a sort of “heartbreak fixer” and has a large scar over his chest. He takes a job to eliminate the mistress of a nightclub owner. Meserov blends into the nightclub effortlessly. He comments on the naked desires he sees in the people around him. However, he panics when he sees his intended target and tries to call off the whole thing. His client (the owner’s wife) refuses, even though Meserov says her husband will die regardless. Meserov re-enters the club, and we start to see the supernatural take hold. Meserov dances with different people, commenting on taking bits of time from each of them. He encounters the mistress, named Esther, and we finally see what they are.

Courtesy Image Comics

The twist (which I won’t reveal) works perfectly with the theme of love and death. Meserov and Esther survive on those two things, but Meserov tries to limit himself. The “good vampire” motif comes to mind, but Skelly and De Campi take it in a new direction that makes it feel fresh. Meanwhile, the art is a unique highlight. The story is quite dark, but the art has a bright, almost cartoon-like feel that creates a sense of unease in the reader.

Overall, “Old Flames” stands as the kind of story TWISTED ROMANCE needs to work. It’s the highlight of the issue, and sadly, neither remaining story reaches these heights.

Leather And Lace

TWISTED ROMANCE #1’s second story, Magen Cubed’s “Leather and Lace,” changes the tone in several ways. The story revolves around a pair of monster hunters. One, Dorian, has an unrequited crush on his partner Cash (who sings Stevie Nicks karaoke). It’s good to see a gay love story in the issue, but it’s held back by two major problems.

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First, the entire story is written out with no illustrations. It creates a different feel, but it’s a jarring shift after the more traditional “Old Flames.” It feels like Cubed and the creative team wanted to do something different purely for the sake of being different. However, doing so robs “Leather and Lace” of the visual punch comic books need. There are far too many scenes that scream for visuals and don’t get them. Reading the text becomes more of a chore as a result.

Second, the story itself is simply not that interesting. Beyond having gay monster hunters, it’s a traditional story of unrequited love between partners. The monster hunting could have added more punch, but the lack of visuals keeps it muted. This could have been a decent story, but instead, it’s proof that different is not always good.

Red Medusa

The last story in TWISTED ROMANCE #1 is Sarah Horrock’s “Red Medusa.” This story is more traditional of the comic book medium as it combines art with story. However, if “Leather and Lace” sacrificed art for story, “Red Medusa” is the inverse of that. The artwork here is dark and horrific, which sets the tone brilliantly.

Courtesy of Image Comics

The art overpowers the story though, as we get a sense of betrayal and death, but not a sense of how it fits together. That may have been the point, but without story, this loses impact as well. Its emotional approach might work as art, but comic books need a story too. Being different just isn’t enough.

Final Thoughts On TWISTED ROMANCE #1

TWISTED ROMANCE #1 holds plenty of potential. However, this first issue shows the dangers of too much artistic freedom. “Old Flames,” the story that works best, balances story with the art that is characteristic of comic books as a medium. The other two stories, meanwhile, fail because they each sacrifice either art or story to enhance the other. It raises questions (why couldn’t Cubed get an artist?) and doesn’t make the book feel as competent as it should. Going forward, the TWISTED ROMANCE series needs more stories with the balance of “Old Flames” if it wants to be more then a bad one-night stand.

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