Love and Capes #1

By Thom Zahler
24 pages, color
Published by Maerkle Press

Some characters in comics are for all intents and purposes archetypes, the basic ideas and concepts that people look to. As such, it’s not uncommon to see analogues of these characters show up in other comics, especially ones like Superman and Wonder Woman. Reading Thom Zahler’s Love and Capes, however, reminded me that just because you’re using an archetype doesn’t preclude you from having a really good comic.

Mark and Abby at a casual glance are two average, ordinary people in a relationship. Mark’s an accountant, Abby runs a bookstore. There’s just one small thing that Mark isn’t telling Abby—he’s really the superhero known as the Crusader. And when he tells her, well, that’s when their relationship gets really interesting.

By making two of Love and Capes‘s three characters analogues of other, well-known creations, Zahler’s using a very effective form of shorthand to get his comic moving. He doesn’t have to stop and explain the Crusader or Amazonia in terms of their absolute basics, instead jumping right into the relationship between Mark and Abby. In some ways it’s a risky move because it doesn’t let the creation of brand-new characters distract you from what’s important—the relationship between the two of them—but fortunately that’s not something that Zahler has to worry about. Mark and Abby’s relationship is a genuine joy to read about. The two of them have a really good rapport, one that feels true to life. Because their relationship is really the core of the book, getting this correct is paramount. There’s a lot of fun here, from Abby having to try and explain away a tan courtesy a super-powered flight to Maui, to Mark dodging metaphorical relationship bullets. Zahler’s scripting reminds me in many ways of a good sitcom script; fast and witty and it aims to make the reader laugh, but still capable of having a good deal of substance contained in its words.

Zahler’s art is a nice cross between animation and caricatures; it uses smooth, friendly lines and curves to create the characters, letting them look stylized but still real. Add in a gentle color palette and it’s an attractive-looking comic. I especially liked that Zahler sticks with an 8-panel grid throughout the comic; it reads easily and at the same time forces Zahler to keep the visual focus on the characters, which is exactly where it should be.

Love and Capes is a fun comic, one that I think has real appeal to a wide variety of readers. Because Zahler uses archetypes for his characters it’s not something that people unfamiliar with superhero comics would have a problem with. Love and Capes was solicited as a one-shot comic, but based on this I’d love to see more of these characters down the line. It’s an all-around good read. Love and Capes is in the April Previews for books shipping in July 2006, on page 324. Or, tell your local retailer to use Diamond order code MAY06 3266.

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