Death of Love #1
Writer: Justin Jordan
Artist/Cover artist: Donal DeLay
Colors: Omar Estévez & Felipe Sobreiro
Letters: Rachel Deering
Publisher: Image Comics
Price: $3.99 US
It may seem fitting that this comic book about the challenges of looking for love is being launched on Valentine’s Day. But this is no romance comic. If you’re looking for a touching love story this week, might I suggest checking out Bingo Love, an original graphic novel also being released by Image Comics this week. Nevertheless, Death of Love #1 is timely in its release, but not because it’s Valentine’s Day. Instead, its relevance flows from how it touches on relationships, misnomers about the “Battle of the Sexes,” and the #MeToo movement. Writer Justin Jordan offers a spot-on portrayal of a pitiful and cowardly guy who feels the universe owes him love. I have to admit that one of the reasons I was so drawn in by the script was because of how much I saw myself in it — or at least a past version of myself. This inaugural issue of Death of Love isn’t about love but rather about fear. The more fantastic premise that reveals Itself by the end of the issue isn’t entirely clear, and on the surface, it would seem to sidestep the point of responsibility. But given the clear indications that the main character is His Own Worst Enemy in this story, I suspect the overall theme will return to a grounded and more evolved perspective.
Philo is a nice guy, or at least he’s pretty sure he’s a nice guy. He’s certainly nicer then the men that Zoe, the unattainable lady friend who needs placed on a pedestal, seems to pair with on a regular basis. But he just can’t seem to bring himself to ask her out and desperately turns to schemes to get her to notice him. As a result, darker forces notice Philo and offer him a change of perspective…
The elongated and exaggerated art of Donal DeLay works well with the subject material. The main character is really more of a caricature, so a more realistic bent isn’t called for here. DeLay’s style strikes me a little bit like a cross between those of Phil Hester and Howard Chaykin; the latter’s influence is particularly notable in the scenes featuring the multitude of invisible Cupids. Delay’s linework here also puts me in mind of the art of Greg Hinkle, whose cartooning on Airboy also depicted self-absorbed and deluded characters.
The scene later in the book depicting Philo and others attending a chauvinistic pick-up artist class was dismaying, though I acknowledge that was rather the point. Perhaps these sort of alpha-training sessions are still going on today, but I found the reference to be a little bit dated. Philo’s willing participation in it also denigrates character even further, making it next to impossible to see him as a protagonist in his own story. Fortunately, it doesn’t appear as though this pickup artist session will be an important plot point going forward.
The scene from which this story draws its greatest strength is that between Philo and his best friend, Bob. The latter sums up perfectly why Philo isn’t successful in his labors of love. By pointing out Philo really doesn’t know that much about Zoe, Bob gets to the root of romance: friendship. It’s clear Philo is in love with the idea of being in love with Zoe; even in the scene in which we see the main character with the object of his unrequited love, it’s never clear why he’s smitten with her. I also like how Bob, who’s depicted as something of a jock type, is actually the perceptive and sensitive sort of guy that Philo perceives himself to be.
By the end of the issue, love is depicted as something of a supernatural force, one that’s manipulating everyone around Philo while seemingly ignoring him. The plot promises Philo’s violent retaliation against that seemingly unjust force. Ultimately, I believe the writer will bring the story back around to Philo’s own shortcomings. However at this early juncture, there could be a perception that Philo and his sense of being denied something he should have had by now could be validated by his newfound discovery of how love supposedly works. To go down that road would do a disservice to the story and would fly in the face of tenets of the #MeToo movement, which has rightly pushed back against this notion of the maligned nice guy.
For a long time, I perceived myself to be one of those nice guys who finished last, but in reality, I knew my real problem the whole time was my fear of rejection. I got over that, and I eventually found Love. I also eventually learned of the myth of a magic spark, of fate, and the reality that friendship, sacrifice and choice as the foundations of a relationship. Jordan’s script seems to have that sense of self-awareness at its core, and that’s what piqued my interest here. 7/10