Monday, September 18, 2017

Graphic Novel Review: Fresh Romance, Vol. 1

Title: Fresh Romance, Vol. 1
Authors & Illustrators: Sarah Kuhn, Kate Leth, Sarah Vaughn, Marguerite Bennet, Kieron Gillen, Arielle Jovellanos, Sarah Winifred Searle, Sally Jane Thompson, Trungles, Christine Norrie
Publication Date: August 3, 2016
Publisher: Oni Press
Pages: 224

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The critically-acclaimed anthology FRESH ROMANCE is finally available in print! Have you been wondering what the fuss is all about? FRESH ROMANCE is an exciting collection of romance comics from some of comics most talented creators, including Kate Leth, Arielle Jovellanos, Sarah Vaughn, Sarah Winifred Searle, Sarah Kuhn, Marguerite Bennett, and Trungles. From unhappy historical marriages to covert teenage romances, there's something for everyone in FRESH ROMANCE. 

I picked up Fresh Romance in early 2016 and had every intention of reading it. Instead it sat on my shelf for over a year and I am just now getting around to picking it up. I didn't realize when I brought this home that it was an anthology of short graphic novels ranging in genre from paranormal to historical fiction. My main takeaway from this anthology is that the stories are entirely too short. I was interested in most of them, but they were SO short that it was really hard to feel like I'd enjoyed them fully. Something I really did appreciate though was how diverse most of them were. Here are my thoughts on each of the four (five?) stories included:

This story was cute once I got my bearings. I felt a bit thrown into things, but as I understood what was really going on I really enjoyed the romance and the paranormal elements I totally wasn't expecting. School Spirit is the most diverse out of all of these stories and, while it was hard reading about the reactions to Justine and Malie's relationship, I loved them together! Sadly, this story really had no resolution. School Spirit feels like there SHOULD be something more to it - more volumes - but I can't find them. Overall a sweet story but annoyingly unresolved. (3 stars)

Completely switching gears, Ruined is about a woman named Catherine, her mysterious backstory with an unknown lover (I'm assuming this is where she was "ruined"? *cringes*), and her arranged marriage to a man named Andrew. I actually really enjoyed this story a lot, but I wish I could find the rest of it! Ruined ends with "to be continued..." and is titled "Volume One," but it seems like there haven't been any additional volumes published and the author has fallen off the map. (4 stars)

This story was a little too weird and fast for me. It's about a girl named Ruby who is from some other unspecified world and her mission is to make people fall in love in a coffee shop for reasons. This one just really wasn't for me. Ruby was okay, but the speed with which she changed her outlook and the lack of explanation given for anything really just didn't do it. (2 stars)

Beauties was another really, really weird story. It's apparently a Beauty and the Beast retelling in which Beauty's father is a prince with two other daughters. The Beast is made the family pet and Beauty falls in love with him for (again) reasons. This story was incredibly short and definitely could have stood to be a bit longer to fill in some (any) details. (2 stars)

Honestly, I don't even know what this is. I tried really hard to understand the point. I mean... at least the art was pretty. (1 star)

While I didn't love every story, this anthology had SO much potential! Unfortunately it seems like it has been abandoned and the one story that ended with "to be continued" will go unresolved. After reading I checked out the website advertised in the back of the book ("Can't wait for more Fresh Romance? Head over to") only to find that there's absolutely nothing there except a link to an old Kickstarter. Keep in mind, this anthology was published in 2016. I feel fortunate to have gotten a copy for free. If I'd paid for it I would've been pretty irritated.

My rating for Fresh Romance was originally 2.5 stars, but I'm taking off a star because the story that ended on a cliffhanger (the only one I really, really enjoyed) has no next volume and the rest of the stories are so unresolved. I've read quite a few graphic novels over the years and I've never felt quite this irritated over the distinct lack of endings. I definitely can't recommend seeking this one out.