"Love Stories (To Die For): Volume 1" Trade Paperback Review
Written by James Ferguson
Published by Devil's Due Entertainment
Written by Dirk Manning
Illustrated by Owen Gieni, Howie Noel, Rich Bonk, Seth Damoose, Anthony Peruzzo
Colored by Sean Burres and Anthony D. Lee
2016, 142 Pages
Trade paperback released on December 28th, 2016
Love can be pretty crazy. It can take you to the highest highs and the lowest lows. It can even kill, whether it's a jilted lover or someone with a broken heart. These darker moments are where you can find Love Stories (To Die For), an anthology title helmed by writer Dirk Manning. A total of five stories are collected in this volume, each with a different artist with their own unique style. Not only do the tales explore a variety of monsters such as zombies, vampires, aliens, and professional wrestlers, they also deal with different types of love, including those between lovers, siblings, parents, and friends.
With each segment, you're sometimes trying to figure out where the love comes in. Others just hit with a good old fashioned twist ending that you did not see coming. All of them pack an emotional punch.
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The standout story is the opening tale, “Symptom of the Universe,” illustrated by Owen Gieni. It follows Frank, a hardened warrior aboard a space station, fighting through literal monsters to get to his wife and the last remaining escape pod so they can blast off to safety. What he doesn't know is that she's been cheating on him and she's holed up in the pod with her lover. The story unfolds in a gut-wrenching manner as you watch Frank go through Hell to get to his wife. While he's willing to go to such great lengths for her, you know that she no longer feels the same way.
Gieni's artwork is solid, especially the design for Frank. Some may say that it was an influence on Forest Whitaker's character in Rogue One, as they do bear a striking resemblance. Frank is stocky and decked out with all kinds of gear, like he's an X-Man from the '90s. He's got pouches all over his person and a giant gun. Although that looked cheesy a few decades ago, it works well here. Frank looks prepared and gristled. He's seen some shit and he's ready to take on all kinds of beasts.
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Speaking of those monsters, there's a terrific build up to their reveal in the story. We see what they're capable of in the bodies and destruction they've left behind. Your mind is racing to imagine what kind of creatures could commit such heinous acts. Then they're shown in a gorgeous full-page spread and they're unlike anything you've ever seen. If hermit crabs had teeth and were about twenty times larger, they might look something like this. You can see shades of the beings in Gieni's later work, Negative Space too. That's the only shot we get of them, but it's enough. This doesn't take away from the main story of Frank and his impending heartbreak.
The other segments in Love Stories (To Die For) hit similar marks, but none hit quite as hard as “Symptom of the Universe.” The artwork is varied, as are the settings and monsters. There really is something for everyone in this collection, whether that's fantasy, dystopia, or sci-fi. Next time someone asks you to watch a romantic comedy, offer this as a substitute.