June 2003

Michael Farrelly

fiction

Love Fights by Andi Watson

Andi Watson really is really funny.

Strangely, that’s a rare trait in comic books. Mainstream books, including the much-blastedsuperhero genre, are very…mainstream. They rely on the standards of comedy (body humor and the like) without really going for the real rib-tickling.

So it is that Love Fights, a comic book romantic comedy series by Andi Watson set in a world populated by superheroes, is so refreshingly funny.

Take the very first page wherein a casually tossed cigarette butt sets off the beginning ofsome kind of super villain plot. This leads to the cute meet between Jack and Nora on a subway car stopped due to superhero punchery. We never see the battle, but then that’s not the story here. Jack is developing superpowers of his own, as “The Choker” a dateless wonderwho can’t seem to sputter out a proposition to the girls he runs into. Jack is a comic artist working on the officially licensed “The Flamer” comic where his coworkers give him nothing but grief for his lackluster romantic skills. Nora, who works for a magazine devotedto super heroic entertainment, is a beam of hope on Jack’s gloomy romantic horizon. Oh, andthere’s a cat with something to say.

Watson’s characters are witty, when Jack is asked by “The Flamer” to remove images of a babyfrom the comic he asks “Who’s he think he is King Herod, and fun to read. The world Watson creates, with superheroes dubbed in for our mundane celebrities is really inventive. One might see parallels with books like “Powers” or “Astro City” but where those books seem interested in introducing mundane concerns as complications for superheroes, Watson is taking the opposite tact. Superheroes are dinner conversation, fodder for punch lines and sometimes the twists of fate that bring people together. There’s romance in the story too, but again there’s such a light touch to the characters crossing paths that it never feels forced or rushed.

Watson’s art is a unique vision that is at once simple and yet layered luxuriously. Watson plays with panel layout as only someone who has a deft understanding of the craft can. The female characters are actually quite cute, a real lesson for the spandex crowd who seem to prefer women of the biologically impossible stripe. Worth noting his how Watson’s shading ofimages reflected in windows and through glass really gives the illusion of depth. It’s something that’s hard to pull off even with color to play with which love fights is gloriously sans.

If you need a selling point though, it’s the humor. Watson’s work is sly and clever without ever going for the easy joke. You could be uninventive and call it brit wit, but let’s not.

This series has a somewhat retro feel to it. Along the lines of early 1960’s superhero books but crossbred with the modern romantic sensibilities. It’s a romantic comedy without all that Meg Ryan noise and clutter.