By Andrea Mau
Web Content Contributor
Why read your romance this Valentine’s when there are pictures? Graphic novels are the freshest medium on the market, offering a plethora of romance with unique storytelling elements. All of the following can be read in one sitting, so treat yourself this holiday and wrap up with your coziest blankets, favorite beverage and one of these feel-good stories.
To start off this list is Bloom by Kevin Panetta and illustrated by Savanna Gaucheau. Set in a quaint little beach town, Bloom is about Ari, a newly graduated high school student who wants nothing more than to escape his small town and become a musician. However Ari’s family wishes for him to stay and help out with the struggling family bakery. Ari thus seeks for his replacement in Hector, a culinary graduate spending the summer in town. But how will Ari’s plans unfold when something more than friendship begins to bloom between him and Hector?
Bloom is an excellent first-dive into romance graphic novels as a one-shot with a complete and satisfying love story. The two main characters both offer contrasting yet complimenting personality traits; Ari is more free-spirited and naive, while Hector is collected and thoughtful. Put together they can make some delicious looking cupcakes and stir up a little drama among their friends. Bloom is a novel which satisfies the long walks on the beach, kisses and cupcakes romance craving if anyone has one.
Hopeless Savages by Jen Van Meter is another solid series following the adventures of the Hopeless-Savage family and their youngest daughter, Skank Zero Hopeless-Savage. Zero is a teen rockstar with her own band and a knack for trouble. Book 2: Ground Zero explores Zero’s potential love life with her nerdy schoolmate Ginger Kincaid, and of course the mess she inevitably gets herself into trying to woo him.
What makes Hopeless Savages so interesting is its diverse mix of artists, featuring the same writer for every book yet a plethora of featured artists including Bryan Lee O’Malley, Andi Watson, Chynna Clugston Flores and Christine and Katherine Norrie. However, this change in art style is not immersion-breaking and actually serves as a function within the story by marking perspective switches. For example, Zero’s brother is given his own chapter and the art style changes to fit his more eloquent traits verses Zero’s more grittier chapters.
Romance-wise, Ground Zero is incredibly sweet and surprised me in how Zero seemed to take the most initiative in the relationship, which is uncharacteristic of most female protagonists in the romance genre. Check out Hopeless Savages if you have a hankering for either hard rock or heart-warming dorky relationships.
Blue Is the Warmest Color by Julie Maroh is the heaviest graphic novel on this list, presenting both a touching romance but also a tear-jerking tragedy. Blue Is the Warmest Color takes place in France with main characters Clementine and Emma. Emma is openly lesbian, while Celmentine is still struggling to accept her identity due to her jugdmental friends and family. However the two find it difficult to stay away from each other and together discover the complexities of love and sexuality.
Blue Is the Warmest Color is a heavy hitter. By far it is the most realistic and haunting of the graphic novels on the list, addressing global issues and dark topics including homophobia and violence. The novel also includes graphic sex scenes between women. Love is fiercely passionate in this book, which is intensified by the forbidden aspect of the relationship. If Romeo and Juliet pulls at your heart-strings, Blue Is the Warmest Color might be your next pick.
Last and best on this list is the popular Scott Pilgrim series by Bryan Lee O’Malley. This series is a graphic novel classic packed with humor, action and romance. Scott Pilgrim takes place in Toronto, Canada, following a 23-year-old man named Scott Pilgrim who has begun to develop feelings for a mysterious woman named Ramona. However, Scott’s pursuit becomes much more complicated when he finds out Ramona has several evil and eccentric exes he must defeat in order to date her.
Scott Pilgrim’s strong point is its humor. This is probably because comedy is the primary basis for the audience to learn about and ultimately sympathize with O’Malley’s characters and relationships. Romana and Scott’s chemistry is magnetic and exciting all the way through, with both members contributing to both the faults and strengths of their relationship. The action is spectacular and incredibly creative, with O’Malley’s ingenious premise leading to hilarious antics between the cast of characters. Scott Pilgrim is not a maybe. Scott Pilgrim is a must.
Within these four graphic novels there is sure to be a romance for everyone’s taste. Graphic novels are one of the newest forms of media, but that has not stopped the artform from gaining plenty of diverse and moving stories. From fluffy pieces on the sea to political tension in France, graphic novels have all the love you need this Valentine’s.
Featured image by Andrea Mau.