Marvel Heartbreakers #1

I don't normally go into these comics reviews completely blind. I know who the creators are going in. I've seen some preview information, or heard the hype. Usually.

But with "Marvel Heartbreakers" #1, I didn't know what I was getting myself into when I agreed to review it. And my ignorance led to nothing but pleasant surprise in this case. This is a pretty good collection of stories.

Yes, it's cute. That kind of goes with the territory when you're doing a comic called "Marvel Heartbreakers" and it's themed to tie-in with some kind of February 14th holiday that may or may not have much meaning to you. (It has a lot of meaning with greeting card makers and your girlfriend. If you care about either.)

What I liked most about this issue is that it not only looks good -- albeit a bit garishly colored -- but it resonates with the spirit of "Nextwave." I know, I didn't expect anything Nextwavy about this comic, either, but, then again, I didn't expect anything.

The first story -- a Spider-Man flashback romantic romp (from the Gwen Stacy days) -- is written by Karthryn Immonen, who has that "Nextwave"-via-marriage connection with artist Stuart Immonen, but it also features artwork that's clearly in the same vein as her husband's. Elena Casagrande doesn't lay out the page like Immonen, but her character work has a similar feel. There's certainly an Immonen tribute in her work. And she plays up the physical humor, much to the benefit of the story.

The second story is a direct descendant of "Nextwave," a Boom-Boom and Elsa Bloodstone caper by Rick Spears (of the needs-to-be-finished-because-it's-awesome "Pirates of Coney Island") and my long-lost-cousin James Callahan. (Note: he's not actually related to me.) Callahan draws in a clear line, big-head style that gives the story the right kind of goofy-monster vibe. And Spears keeps up with the funny, as the pair of irrepressible heroes has a run-in with the world's worst prospective boyfriend. The highlight of the story, though, is Elsa's probably fictional flashback of her father literally throwing her to the sharks. It's a great visual gag, combined with a hilarious bit of dialogue.

The rest of the issue isn't as good as the opening two stories, but the Jim McCann/David Lopez story is a sweet little tableau featuring the furry Beast and the Dazzler. And the Snowbird story by Karl Bollers and Harvey Tolibao looks spectacular, even if its archly formal narration is tonally discordant with the lighter fare in the rest of this issue.

From what I've experienced over the past few years, any sort of holiday-themed issue from Marvel of DC seems not only skippable, but a disappointing waste of time and talent. "Marvel Heartbreakers" doesn't suffer that fate. It's a charmer.

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