Over the years, Peter Milligan’s comics have shown us that his stories never quite go down a normal route. That continues in Milligan and Brett Parson’s “New Romancer” #1, the start of a twelve-issue series that mixes deceased literature romantics and with the joys of online dating profiles. While “New Romancer” #1 is off to a slightly slow start, there’s enough interesting material here to warrant a look.
Milligan’s plot for “New Romancer” #1 takes a basic story concept — bringing historical figures to life in the present day — and gives it a unique twist by basing their personas in the personality matrix of online dating profiles. At the center of this idea is Lexy, a programmer whose wistful notions of figures like Giacomo Casanova and Lord Byron collide with the 21st century, but whose romance algorithms entangle with a golem project of her old employer to bring many of those faces to life.
A lot of “New Romancer” #1 feels very familiar; the figures of the past adjusting to the present is something we’ve seen more times than we can count. The biggest strength for the comic, then, is Lexy. Her justification for creating the dating profiles is interesting, and her status as a pariah among the computer field is intriguing. It feels like there’s more than just sour grapes for why Incubator has so effectively blackballed her, and Milligan shows just enough on that front that it looks like we’re heading towards something larger in the remaining issues. I also appreciated how Milligan isn’t afraid to go dark with the resurrected figures in the first issue. The final scene with Casanova gives us a depiction of the figure that doesn’t fit with the romanticized ideal most are used to. This is dangerous and creepy, something much more than we first see in Lexy’s encounter with Lord Byron. It gives me high hopes for what’s to come.
Parson’s art is good here, reminding me of artists like Philip Bond and J. Scott Campbell with his slightly blocky features on his characters (locks of hair, square noses) that somehow still maintain a sleek profile. When Lexy stands up and shakes her fist when confronted about the New Romancer project, it could have come across a little too cliched in other hands, but I appreciated that Parson gives her a real energy in that scene. Similarly, the scene in the club could have been just a mass of people, but I like how there are different postures and actions going on, even as Lord Byron’s overall fear of 21st century attitudes comes across clearly. I definitely want to see more of Parson even after “New Romancer” concludes next year.
“New Romancer” #1 is an all right start, but it’s a little slow at first as it clearly sets up what’s still to come. In the end, that’s reasonable so long as things pick up a bit in the next installment; there are just enough hooks here to make people come back. Those last three pages give me enough hope for what’s still on the horizon that I want to see what happens next. Milligan and Parson are determined to show us that romance isn’t dead just yet.