by Jamie S. Rich and Joelle Jones
Twelve Reasons Why I Love Her from Oni Press is a welcome addition to the oh so underused comic genre of romantic fiction. Strange really, given that at one time romance comics were the mainstay of the medium. Maybe it’s just a sign of the times and how ghettoised comics are. But it’s always struck me as a terrible shame that a good Romance or a Rom-Com doesn’t feature more in our little world of comics. In fact, I’ve written all of this before and coined a nice little phrase for a little sub-genre of comic – the Rom-Com-Comic. (the less well-known cousin of Rum-Tum-Tugger – Joe)
Well, 12 Reasons isn’t a Rom-Com-Comic but a more straightforward serious romantic drama. And as such, in a real world / non-comics world is the sort of thing that is made into huge films, long running and popular TV dramas and is the absolute staple of a complete genre of books (chick lit is such a horrible label though). That there are very, very few examples of romantic dramas in comics says a lot about the medium and the industry (and none of what it says is particularly nice).
(That first bloom of love,playful and exciting. From 12 Reasons Why I Love Her by Jamie S Rich and Joelle Jones. Published Oni Press.)
Jamie S. Rich tells us the story of two people; Gwen and Evan. The story takes us from their initial meeting, through the bloom of first love, into that comfortable zone and sadly, out the other end, into arguments, pettiness, recriminations and break ups. But cleverly he doesn’t present it as a linear journey, instead we visit Gwen and Evan at each stage of their relationship, 12 seperate vignetttes of their life together just not in chronological order. Hence, when we first meet them, we can tell they’re in a settled, blissfully happy state. Yet in the next chapter we revisit their (disastrous) first date and start wondering how they got from disaster to happiness.
This carries on through the book, with Rich managing to structure it beautifully well, setting up big reveals and partial truths and never really letting us know which way it’s all going to end. Which is just as it should be. With some work the linear story is assembled, but Rich has written it in a clever way to leave the ending, just like real life, open and vague. I like d that very much. After all, why can’t comics be just as difficult and troublesome to resolve as real life?
(But flowers can mean other things as well. Betrayal and jealousy in 12 Reasons.)
First time I read it though, I didn’t get that much from it. The mood was wrong perhaps, and the story didn’t gel. However, on a revisit for the review it was a different story. Maybe the lateness of the night helped. Maybe the song on the i-pod. Whatever it was, second time was the charm The emotional resonance worked and I found myself going on the same little emotional journey that Gwen and Evan were having. It mattered more and consequently I enjoyed it considerably more.
(Joelle Jone’s art in 12 Reasons is just wonderful. Usually thick lined and expressive she switches styles a couple of times to give us ultra detailed and emotional scens such as this one.)
Unbelievably this is Joelle Jones’ first professional artwork in comics. It’s simple, expressive, sensual, beautiful, resonating, emotional and many more. I could just spend another paragraph finding the words. But just take it as a stunning art find. The fact that you barely notice her art at first, it so seemlessly blends with the story as to make it one and the same, is no fault, merely an indication of how well she tells this story. But she doesn’t just rely on one style in the book. Granted, most of the art is very clear, thick line work, but there are three vignettes where she switches to something softer, even using washes at one point. The effect is lovely.
Joelle’s next published work is the Minx book Token, due out in October. Joelle’s art blog is here and Jamie has put a lot of Joelle’s work up on his Flickr page here. Jamie S Rich also has his blog; Confessions Of A Pop Fan.
All in all 12 Reasons Why I Love Her is a top class indicator of the sort of comic we really should be seeing more of. It forms that missing link between the hard extremes of genre superhero stuff and ulta arty comic. Something that the wider world can really latch onto. Now wouldn’t that be nice?
Richard Bruton is currently planning a comics version of Bridget Jones’ Diary while trying to conceal his habit of picking up second hand Mills & Boon romance novels in charity shops from public scrutiny; if anyone asks he tells them it is for his research into genre studies.