Titled “Green with Envy,” this newest monstrous love anthology features some big names and some big characters like Raven, Deadman, and even Etrigan. Unlike many anthologies, which often have a few stories that are lacking that special something, there was at least something really enjoyable in every story. And, for every tiny misstep, there is a hugely touching moment that hit me right in the feels. This issue is simply filled with excellence.
Even the cover, done by Kelley Jones, is outstanding. The font and the thought bubbles invoke a classic horror comic feel while the title itself is a nod to the Joe Simon and Jack Kirby Young Romance comics. It is easy to forget how many big names worked in romance comics and just how much solid work there was in the genre. This melding of genres preferably captures what the issue is about. The art itself is also wonderful showing the Bride of Frankenstein’s Monster making out with Swamp Thing, who is in full bloom. The dropping of the yellow flowers and the rose in her hair create a strong sense of cohesion despite the separation we are seeing.
The first story in the collection is “Nocturnal Animal” by Writer Kyle Higgins and Artist Kelley Jones. It explores the relationships Kirk has with his wife Francine, his alter ego Man-Bat, and himself. The scenes where we see the separated husband and wife getting together for the first time in months with Man-Bat hulking behind him commenting and laughing is amazingly done. While not the most original concept, Rob Leigh’s letters and Michelle Madsen’s colors work together to make the Man-Bat in Kirk’s imagination truly stand out as it looks and sounds other worldly. He takes over the pages he is in. It is a very enjoyable tale and points to a variety of toxic relationships one can find themselves in. The ending was more than I could have ever hoped for in a title like this and it is something that I want to see more of in general.
The strongest story as far as the concept was “Buried on Sunday” by writer Mairghread Scott with art by Bryan Hitch and Andrew Currie. This Solomon Grundy tale is yet another emotional one. Superman with his whole over perfect overpowered everything can be a difficult character to really connect to, but this issue highlights one of the reasons his stories can be so impactful. Who else but Superman would have the ability and understanding to help Solomon Grundy make his way to a graveyard to pay respects to his wife on what was her birthday. Superman stresses that when people fall on hard times, it is easy for them to harden and he understands how important it is for those people to be reminded that there are people who know that they can be more. It is a very heart warming story. These types of stories are the ones that fans of Solomon Grundy wait for.
Finally, the one that stands out most as far as art is “Heart Shaped Box” by Writer Mark Russell and art by Travis Lanham. The way that the textures of Swamp Thing meld with the environment around him conveys such a sense of the character. Sometimes, this is made even more literal with the over layering of images such as the panel that is shaped by his face on one side with the image in the panel being Terri Farms’s holding his hands with the words floating around them. There is such a deep understanding of character here when Swamp Thing introduced himself first with “It’s complicated.” It is a sweet love story where we get to see Swamp Thing feel a connection to humanity again even if it is for a moment.
More than just tradition Valentines Day love stories, this issue features so much more. Despite the collection being unnecessarily hetero dominant, many stories do not even feature romantic pairings making this less of an issue. In several of the stories, there is a strong emphasis on self-love, acceptance, and respect for those we live our lives with. Regardless of relationship status or lack there of, you have love in your life and this issue conveys that beautifully. It will pull at your heartstrings in just the right ways.
(W) Paul Dini, James Robinson, Jeff Lemire, Steve Orlando, Mark Russell, Kyle Higgins, Alisa Kwitney, Phil Hester (A) Guillem March, Frazer Irving (A/CA) Kelley Jones