“Young Romance: The New 52 Valentine’s Day Special” #1 contains “six love stories from all corners of the DC Universe,” with a variety of characters and couples, some long-established and some new.
“Think It Through” by Ann Nocenti, Emanuela Lupacchino and Jaime Mendoza is one extended flashback, and a trip down memory lane reveals a lot about The New 52’s Catwoman then and now. Selina Kyle comes off as a headstrong, impulsive girl rather than a confident woman of the world or a worthy foe. Lupacchino’s pencils are great in the climactic scene as Batman holds Catwoman in his arms, and Gabe Eltaeb does a very pretty coloring job with the light refracting through purple glass. All the romance of “Think It Through” is in those two panels, but Nocenti’s moral symbolism and the physical metaphor of falling has zero subtlety. As a character and mood sketch, “Think It Through” does its job, but as a “how they meet,” it’s a let-down.
The plot of “The Lighthouse” by Cecil Castellucci and Inaki Miranda also moves between past and present. Arthur and Mera are loosely compared to a pair of star-crossed lovers from the Regency era. The tale begins with the gimmicky lead-in of a discovery of a packet of long-lost love letters, and rest of the tale is equally stale. The prose is awkward, with phrases like “storm of a father” and trite stock lines like “You are my greatest adventure.” The art team of Inaki Miranda and Eva de la Cruz, who have been doing excellent work on “Fairest,” bring some emotional resonance to the cliched ending page, but overall, readers who are fans of Arthur and Mera won’t find much substance here.
“Dreamer” by Ray Fawkes and Julius Gopez is only story doing something unpredictable in “Young Romance: The New 52 Valentine’s Day Special” #1. The couple is unusual, with a dashing, heroic and physically-abled Batgirl is paired with Ricky, a civilian first seen in “Batgirl Annual” #1, who is none of these things. Fawkes’ excellent dialogue sounds like the real back-and-forth of a date, which gives Batgirl and Ricky’s conversation a distinctive and surprising charm. Gopez’s jagged lines and gritty atmosphere are a good match for the setting and tone. Overall, “Dreamer” is my favorite out of the bunch, but like all the other stories, it’s a vignette that is about one scene or a feeling instead of proving the satisfaction of a full narrative arc.
The highlight of “Seoul Brothers” by Peter Milligan and Simon Bisley is the atmosphere created by Bisley’s moody, smudgy art style. Brian Buccellato’s colors and the yellow and purple captions both reinforce the day/night, opposites attract theme of this Apollo and Midnighter piece, which isn’t really a story, but a brief encounter of exes that goes nowhere.
“Another Saturday Night” by Kyle Higgins and Sanford Greene opens with Nightwing in a promising fight scene, but the story is a downer that ends abruptly. Greene’s character and costume design for Ursa Major imaginative and offbeat, though.
“Truth or Dare” by Andy Diggle, Robson Rocha and Julio Ferreira Ferreira has Superman and Wonder Woman on another date which inevitably interrupted. Rocha’s art doesn’t make it clear exactly how Diana and Clark suddenly are in costume mid-story in a restaurant. Also, Diggle’s dialogue is stilted and melodramatic, but the very last panel has a fun if silly twist.
Stapled into its centerfold, “Young Romance: The New 52 Valentine’s Day Special” #1 also has 18 Valentine’s Day perforated cards featuring DC heroes and retro, cute Valentine’s Day messages. It’s a nice addition, and my favorite is probably the last one, featuring Batman and the line “Tonight is for just us.”
Anthologies are always a mixed bag, and unfortunately, Young Romance: A New 52 Valentine’s Day Special” #1 doesn’t have any standout romances that make the entire collection worth picking up, unless the reader just wants the cards. While the art is often strong, there isn’t a single story that moves the reader or is well-structured enough to hold its own, although “Dreamer” is a nice introduction. Considering the character lineup and the cover price, that’s a disappointment.