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Love Fights #9
Story and Art by Andi Watson

Post-modernism is nothing new to comics.

Hell, comics were probably referencing themselves before any other pop medium even caught on to the idea. It’s kinda hard to avoid when you serialize something for so many decades.

But it’s a bit harder to figure out when these non-superhero superhero comics started gaining strength. I’ve known people who’ve cited Alan Moore’s Supreme and Kurt Busiek’s Astro City as heralds for the subgenre (which always felt a bit strange since they were so much ABOUT superheroes). Then Bendis came along with Powers and Alias, again focusing on worlds strongly affected by the presence of superheroes, but not starring superheroes.

Now, Andi Watson has decided to take the concept to the next level with Love Fights, a boy-meets-girl story set in a city of tomorrow where heroes fly around righting wrongs and thwarting evil deeds.

This issue continues Jack and Nora’s quest to prove the innocence of The Flamer (a hero who, in Hollywood terms, is Superman with a dash of Human Torch). After researching the decades worth of villains Flamer’s taken down in his time, Jack and Nora learned that Dr. Pitt and Professor Pendulum were the only ones unaccounted for. It looks to be an open and shut case… if not for the fact that The Flamer doesn’t remember them. After all, he did only fight them once, and it was before 1984… then it comes together.

1984 was when the Modal Multiverse Conjunction took place. Of course, The Flamer doesn’t remember THAT either, since his Golden Age, Silver Age, and Bronze Age selves were merged during the conflict, but Jack and Nora try to explain how the many universes came to be one anyway. They almost make it through the many different origins of Flamer Girl before he overloads and simply figures the best solution is to find Pitt and Pendulum and beat the tar out of them.

Meanwhile, Nora returns to her interview with The Fader and gets some clues as to what’s going on. But what’s going on with Jack’s super-powered pet cat…?

Some of you may scoff at the idea of Watson handling a superhero book (*cough* Namor *cough*). Others might see it as the perfect marriage of artist and weirdass subgenre. But I’m guessing most don’t even know who the hell Andi Watson is.

(Cue indie comic rant… now) This is why you need to read more indie comics, my friend. The full effect of Watson’s storytelling doesn’t really come through without his art, which, admittedly, is a bit of an acquired taste but so worth it.

His process has been evolving throughout the years, moving from the strange early style of Samurai Jam (that made everyone think his books were goth) to the cute manga-influenced style that developed in Skeleton Key before culminating in Geisha to the somewhat New Yorker-influenced cartooning of his numerous recent mini-series.

In Love Fights, he’s started yet another evolution. The clean lines that were once his signature have been replaced by rough strokes. The simple tones of Breakfast After Noon have been broken into numerous shades of grey, and, if it can be imagined, his touch seems even lighter than before. It’s been said that a flaw with Watson’s early work was an overabundance of detail. His solution was to strip the image down to the basics, but, not content with simply being another minimalist, he’s gone back to some of the techniques he explored in Skeleton Key and increased the texture of his art.

I can see this bothering people who need clean lines in their comics, but the look of the brushwork is strangely engaging. His cityscapes look stronger than ever, the lack of sharp edges allowing the reader’s imagination to fill in the shadows and highlights. The extra shading also allows a greater range of emotions to play across his simple character designs (The Flamer’s tendency to flare when irritated owes a lot to this). If you liked Craig Thompson’s brushwork on Blankets, you should probably give Love Fights a look.

What really grabs me, however, is the writing. Andi Watson is a natural visual storyteller, plain and simple. His gigs as a scripter have never been bad, but something is definitely lost when he doesn’t have full control of the story. Here, the characters are so consistent and the threads so interesting that the book nearly becomes addictive.

As always, his story is about the relationships between people, but the setting and events are so fantastic they set your mind racing. What would you do if your cat ran away and came back with super powers (and a sassy mouth, to boot)? How should a guy look for love when all the girls want to date musclebound heroes? If a hero’s DNA test proves he’s the father of an illicit lovechild, is it just another fiendish plot by a nefarious villain, or does he owe some child support?

For the first time since Geisha, Watson steps up to the bizarre and gives it a big bear hug. Not since the “Celestial Calendar” storyline of Skeleton Key has he been so willing to dive into the realm of fantasy. The same giddy feeling runs through Love Fights.

However, we now have an interesting question before us: what comes first in the Love Fights universe-- the heroes or their comics? We know that the comics are made after the heroes debut, but do they come to control their namesakes’ destinies? Was the Modal Multiverse Conjunction a war of worlds or just a big marketing ploy? How much can a comic about comics deconstruct comics before comic fanboys’ heads implode?!

Well, it looks like we’re going to find out.


Jason Schachat

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