Love as a Foreign Language Vol. 1

Written by J. Torres
Art by Eric Kim
72 pages, black and white
Published by Oni Press

One of my favorite release formats we’ve seen in recent days was Viz’s treatment of Eagle, with small, 100-page volumes showing up on a regular basis. The books were long enough that they were squarebound and looked nice sitting on your bookshelf, but short enough that the consumer wasn’t overwhelmed by the amount of material or the amount of money being spent. That’s what Oni Press’s new series Love as a Foreign Language reminds me of; a perfect-sized quarterly series that I want to see slowly take over my bookshelf.

Joel’s sick of Korea. He’s sick of teaching English classes, he’s sick of the strange food, he’s sick of not understanding the language, and he’s sick of the cockroach in his apartment that just won’t die. He’s so sick of it all that he’s ready to quit, but just when he’s ready to tender his resignation, everything looks like it’s about to turn around.

J. Torres’s script for Love as a Foreign Language hits all the right notes for a introduction to the series. We really get to know everything important about Joel; his yearning to go back home to Canada, his growing disdain for Korea, his relationship with his co-workers, and his frustration at the barriers that separate himself from Korean culture. What’s great about it is that you never feel like Torres is rattling off exposition or lecturing the reader; all of the information unfolds naturally as we follow Joel through several days of living in Korea and seeing Joel get beaten down by everything around him. You can’t help but feel bad for Joel, as you see how even a day’s worth of language classes slowly saps his enthusiasm and energy until by the end of the day he just doesn’t care anymore. He’s a genuinely likable guy, and seeing those little sparks of energy and excitement about him when he first encounters Hannah makes you want to see more of him like that all the more. As an added bonus, there’s a lot of Torres’s trademark humor in Love as a Foreign Language; little zingers like Joel’s comment on how Korean foods seems like the end result of a dare had me grinning the whole way through the book.

This is the first artwork I remember seeing of Eric Kim’s, but I’m pretty sure that I’d have remembered something this nice if I’d encountered it before. He’s got a great command of body language; little scenes like Joel slumped over a table while Kelly eats her Korean food that could have just been banged out onto the page instead come to life, from Kelly’s fiendish grin as she holds her chopsticks to Joel’s crumpled posture. The whole book is like this; every page flows perfectly from one panel to the next, allowing everything from gags of Joel smacking into the door to his resigned look as he pushes through the subway to come to life. Stylistically, Kim’s art is very much his own, defining a look so effortlessly it makes me wonder if he hasn’t really been drawing comics for years while I just wasn’t paying attention.

Love as a Foreign Language Vol. 1 is a great start to a new series for Torres, Kim, and Oni Press; the fact that it’s just three months until a second volume has me really excited because this is a fantastic book. If there’s any justice, this is about to become the next big thing with comic readers everywhere. I do know that for me, Love as a Foreign Language is a winner from start to finish. Well done.

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