Lovefool 09.09.13 | Love, Darkly

Dirk Manning and friends prove that a love story doesn’t have to have a happy ending in the brutal twist on romance Love Stories (To Die For).


Nerdlings! I am late. Well, in my defense, it’s not like the column would’ve gone up yesterday, as both JG,FE and I were both rockin’. Stephin Merritt of the glorious Magnetic Fields once said there’d be time enough for rockin’ when we’re old, but JG,FE and I raised some horns in defiance of that in the last couple days. Well, I did, anyway. Mr. J and I were at Iron Maiden and JG,FE was at Loufest. So maybe he wasn’t exactly throwin’ ’em up but, either way, we’re a little behind here. I had a great couple weekends, though, between heading up to Omaha to visit friends over Labor Day and rocking out with my…well, rocking out last night. The best part of the night was how much fun Mr. J had. Seriously, he was SO! EXCITED! And, I mean, I’m an Iron Maiden fan but I’m pretty sure I just heard Mr. J tap out a drumbeat with his foot at the kitchen sink just now. Even if I wasn’t, I still would’ve gone, it was just a happy coincidence that we were both stupid excited about it. The couple that rocks together, stays together, I suppose.
It’s funny, though, what we do for people we love, which is what’s explored in the Image/Shadowline one-shot Love Stories (To Die For), a gory-as-hell flipbook (twice the value!) from the brain of Dirk Manning. Without dredging up any old gossip, I’ll just say that this partnership is a little surprising but I do love a happy ending…
 …none of which can be found in Mr. Manning’s book. Which is also okay. The story’s the thing. And these stories are excellent. Lushly illustrated by a staff including Rich Bonk (Grimm Fairy Tales), Sean Burres (Orphans, Bloodlust) and Owen Gieni (Avengelyne…and I see what happened there, Glory), Love Stories (To Die For) includes just those—love stories with endings, sure, but not necessarily happy endings. Vikings teaming up with vampires and a love affair doomed to be lost in space—it’s weird how these end up being love stories, but they do. I don’t want to spoil the books for you, but it’s unlikely loves that make the tales go ’round.
“Bloodlust: Tales Deceiver of the Gods” is the first up, the vampires and Vikings story previously mentioned. I bet that it was a fascinating time, when Vikings were wandering a world that was just getting to really know Christianity and things were still a little weird. Stories and legends come from somewhere and there are all kinds of curious tales of the wild days before “civilization.” It’s an interesting tale of what monsters will do for love and what ambassadors of what is supposedly the highest love may or may not be capable of. The second story, “Symptom of the Universe,” is the story of a love gone wrong, and what one man is willing to do to save it and his wife is willing to do to get out of it. And there’s aliens. Scary, scary aliens hanging out on a space station. It’s pretty cool. And there’s a bit of collateral damage along the way that’s handled rather boldly. I have to admit I have a soft spot for the book’s timelines, Way Way Back and The Far Future, and the art suits the stories, especially “Bloodlust”’s shots of color in a world of white.
Love can be a dark sort of thing, sometimes, a little maddening, and Manning’s tales explore that. There’s a little bit of squickiness, which is fair. Love isn’t tidy. There’s a little bit of history and a little bit of speculation, some good storytelling and a whole lotta love. | Erin Jameson
Click here for a preview of Love Storie (To Die For), right here at PLAYBACK:stl!

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