A new Image Comics experiment recently drew to a close in the final installment of Twisted Romance. The limited anthology series was released in four issues throughout the month of February to celebrate Valentine's Day and all of the themes that surround it beyond chocolate and roses. Alex de Campi curated the series, crafting stories for a diverse array of modern comics' best artists and a sampling of prose from comics-related talents. Now that the final issue has arrived we can take a look at the complete collection of comics and short stories to assess what it accomplished.
There's no beating around the bush that, from the very first issue, which we reviewed here, to the last installment, Twisted Romance delivered some of the best comics in the month of February. Every issue included two comics and one story centered around one theme connected to romance, including toxic relationships and breakups. They ran the gamut from magical realism to horror, covering every corner of comics in genre as well as talent. It was a potent collection of stories that made each Wednesday a better new comic book day than normal.
So the real question is what made Twisted Romance work, and how can we get more comics like it? Here's our breakdown of how this fantastic formula can be replicated for more great creator-owned comics like these.
Everything You Need in a Single Issue
It's a rarity in comics today that you can pick up one issue and have everything you would want. Each issue of Twisted Romance provided all you could look for and more. Every set of three stories were designed with a complete arc: beginning, middle, and end. Some have room for expansion. Magen Cubed's "Leather & Lace" is already being expanded to additional short stories and possibly a novel featuring the monster-hunting romantic duo from this short story. Yet no fan of this initial story will be disappointed by what they receive in the pages of Twisted Romance. If you like what is present in any of these narratives, then you won't be required to spend another dime in order to get the whole deal.
That shouldn't suggest there isn't more to find after completing an issue of Twisted Romance. Someone who discovers the art of Katie Skelly or Carla Speed McNeil can find far more stories featuring their unique styles in recent works like My Pretty Vampire or Finder, respectively. These small features offer the perfect combination of an introduction and starting point.
Perhaps the single best point is that there's no wrong place to start within Twisted Romance. The issues are numbered from one to four, but that's simply to denote the order of publication. It's as easy to hand someone Twisted Romance #3 as it is to pass along Twisted Romance #1. These individual collections don't build on one another as they are only apiece in theme, not ongoing narratives. That makes them a joy to discover fresh on the shelves this month or in the back issue bins of a future February. Every installment of Twisted Romance is a complete comic filled with stories and requiring that readers focus on nothing except for what's in front of them. That's a great introduction in the modern comics market.
An Incredible Array of Talent
No matter how well a comic is formatted, it doesn't matter much without a talented collection of writers, artists, and cartoonists to tell the story. That's where the publisher Image Comics and curator Alex de Campi really work their magic in Twisted Romance. Over the past decade Image has remarketed itself as the home for creators in American comics looking to control their own stories. They've attracted the best and the brightest from big publishers like Marvel Comics or DC Comics to do whatever they might like and own whatever results from it. That initially brought about big names like Brian K. Vaughan or Jonathan Hickman, who have helped to bring more eclectic talents along the way.
In Twisted Romance, Alex de Campi has collaborated with a range of creators from almost every corner of the American comics industry. De Campie had previously worked with Carla Speed McNeil on their Image series No Mercy and McNeil has displayed incredible storytelling talents on her own solo work. Sarah Horrock and Katie Skelly are two of the greatest rising talents coming from the indie scene, displaying a deft sense of visual construction in very different styles. Trungles has gained a notable following on social media and offered a simply stunning set of images, including the cover for Twisted Romance #4. For anyone interested in exploring a greater range of comics styles and stories, there's no better survey to being with than the collection of artists in this anthology.
A Great Comic From Cover to Cover
There are a lot of ways to evaluate a comic book. You can start with the cover and Twisted Romance knocks that element out of the park. It's not just the great artists commissioned to introduce each of the four issues. There's a matter of price and printing quality, both of which these issues excel at. Considering the page count and paper stock, Twisted Romance is nothing short of a steal at $3.99. Compared to similarly priced comics that only offer 20 pages of story that only compose a chapter of a longer story, it's hard to look at these collections as anything less than a great deal.
Deals don't matter without stories worth reading though, and that's where Twisted Romance really knocks the competition out of the park. It's not just that the series brings together a great array of talent, but that they offer such a diverse array of stories. There are so many genres displayed within these pages. The first issue focuses primarily on horror, but later installments touch more on fantasy, realism, and other approaches to romance. Even if you don't find one story to your taste, there's no doubt that a future one will be more appealing. No comic is for everyone, but this collection ought to catch everyone's attention at some point.
It's all of these elements combined that make Twisted Romance truly great. The anthology, when collected in a single volume, offers a buffet of the best comics talent today. It's the sort of series you could hand to someone who has never read a comic before and expect them to find an artist or approach they'll need to explore further. That's nothing to scoff at, and we hope Image Comics produces similar anthologies soon to hook even more new readers.