Written by DIRK MANNING/ Art by RICH BONK & OWEN GIENI/ Colors by SEAN BURRES & OWEN GIENI/ Letters by JIM REDDINGTON/ Published by IMAGE COMICS & SHADOWLINE PRODUCTIONS
With a title like Love Stories To Die For, one might be forgiven for thinking this book a romance comic. American graphic literature does boast a long tradition of such books. Most of them possessing titles like Young Love, Radiant Love and, naturally, Love and Romance.
But there are many types of love, such as the love of a parent for a child or the divine love spoken of by priests and prophets. Even what we think of as romantic love could be broken down into the love born of quick passion and the love born of honest admiration for a person’s fine qualities. Love Stories To Die For explores all the forms that Love can take in a person’s life as well as Love’s power in the face of Death.
The first story in this volume, Bloodlust: Deceiver of the Gods, is a historical fantasy set in medieval Germany. Our story focuses upon a group of Norse warriors, who are also converted Christians. Led by the war-chief Erik Skullsplitter, these Vikings have answered a call to arms in the name of God’s Love. A local abbey is besieged by a most devilish legion of thieves, who seek to stop the priests’ noble work in destroying their kind. But The Devil, like Love, can take many different forms and the cause of righteousness is not always obvious…
Dirk Manning’s script here is well-paced and entertaining, despite the bare bones of the story being a standard barbarian adventure tale. Much of this is owed to the uniqueness of the setting and the sheer charisma of our protagonist. Comparisons could be drawn between Erik Skullsplitter and Solomon Kane – both warriors born and Men of God in their fashion.
Manning’s script is well depicted by Grimm Fairy Tales artist Rich Bonk. Unsurprisingly, Bonk depicts the medieval setting with a high degree of accuracy and detail. The backgrounds and characters are well separated despite the thinness of Bonk’s inks and the action scenes flow well throughout. Praise must also be paid to colorist Sean Burres, who delivers some truly amazing transitional color shading.
The second story in this issue, Symptom of the Universe, is a science-fiction tale set in the far future. On a doomed ship invaded by insectoid aliens, a space marine named Frank must fight his way to the sealed deck where his beloved wife Allison and an escape pod for two await him. Frank will be torn between his love for his wife and the love born of a soldier’s duty and love for the society that he protects as he races across the ship and finds other people in need of help. Will Frank honor his responsibility even as the clock ticks closer and closer to doom?
This chapter is less original than the first and comparisons to the Aliens films are unavoidable. Thankfully, Manning brings the ethos and pathos of the base concept to the forefront. Despite Frank’s status as a cliché sci-fi action hero, one can’t help but feel sorry for him as he finds himself fighting not only an alien menace but that most human of fears – the fear of being alone.
The artwork of Owen Gieni perfectly matches the tone of Manning’s script. Both are reminiscent of the sort of work one might have seen in Heavy Metal Magazine during its heyday. There’s surprisingly little action for Gieni to illustrate in this story but Geini does a fine job of building the drama regardless. Most of the panels are extreme close-ups on our characters, which subtly increases the sense of claustrophobia inspired by the script.
All in all, this is a most promising start for this new anthology series. This is one to keep an eye on!