12 Reasons Why I Love Her original graphic novel
Writer: Jamie S. Rich
Artist: Joelle Jones
Letters: Douglas E. Sherwood
Editor: James Lucas Jones
Publisher: Oni Press
Price: $14.95 US/$18.95 CAN
My girlfriend and I don’t have the best story about how we first met. Our relationship is the result of a happenstance encounter online, and even today, meeting someone on the Internet still carries a stigma for some. We’ve created a slew of memorable funny stories, romantic stories and sad stories in our more than three years together, and we know we’ll be creating many more in the years to come. In 12 Reasons Why I Love Her, writer Jamie S. Rich and artist Joelle Jones tell the stories of another couple, and Evan and Gwen’s are perfect. The banter between the pair is entertaining and perfect, but there’s also an awkwardness in the script at times that really drives home a genuine sound and brings credibility to the characters. Another pleasant aspect of the book is how it introduces readers to the talents of newcomer Joelle Jones. Her sketchy, flowing style is thoroughly pleasing to the eye, and the expressiveness of her characters really helps Rich to tell the story.
Gwen and Evan are in love, and their relationship has weathered many ups and downs. It survived Evan’s chauvinistic behavior on their first date. It survived radical differences of opinion (or perhaps thrived because of them). It survived bad gifts, bad excuses and bad dates. The pair has passion for one another, and after a one-year anniversary, it’s looking as though this is the Real Thing, the Happily Ever After. But sometimes, things are not always as they appear, and at others, the Real Thing can be scarier than a horror movie.
Jones’s black-and-white artwork brings an airy, flowing look to the story that’s in keeping with the book’s romantic focus. Her art strikes me as a cross between the styles of Chris (Death: The High Cost of Living) Bachalo and Phil (Beautiful Killer) Noto. Her soft lines convey the characters’ everyday humanity quite well. Gwen and Evan don’t look like super-heroes thrown into a mundane setting (which occurs too often when some comic artists try to depict regular people). I really enjoyed how her loose style takes on a tighter, more coherent look when the view closes in on the characters. The closeups employ thicker lines, but they’re smoother, even more confident.
The achronological storytelling choice the writer makes here is intriguing. I like how he saves the beginning of this story as the ending of the graphic novel, leaving the reader on a hopeful, optimistic note. The way the actual ending and the characters’ first encounter come one after the other makes it clear Rich wants the reader to compare them and ultimately come away with a good feeling about Gwen and Evan’s relationship despite any evidence to the contrary.
Throughout the graphic novel, Gwen is the character we’re meant to admire. She’s the smart one, the sexy one and the confident one. That’s why her behavior in the second to final vignette comes as such a shock and surprise. She approaches a significant stumbling block in the relationship with her usual logic and sensitivity, but her expectations and choices are irritating and understandably likely to produce a volatile result. Evan doesn’t handle the news well, but his reaction does make sense. The reader empathizes with him, not with Gwen.
Ultimately, this book isn’t about what it takes to make a relationship work and whether or not it’s meant to be. I think the greater message is that whether it’s Forever or For a While, the collection of the experiences alone is the reward. The prize isn’t the storybook ending but the story itself. The juxtaposition of the two final scenes says it all: the good definitely outweighs the bad. 9/10