I Kickstarted Fresh Romance Volume 1 way back when it was under the auspices of Rosy Press. Now that the Fresh Romance IP has moved to Emet Comics, one might worry that its fun, romantic, diverse commitment might…change, or waver. Have no fear! Fresh Romance Volume 2 just shipped to Kickstarter backers in the bound volume, and came available to preorder to everyone else. It’s just as lovely as the first.
In a world flooded by superhero books and grimdark independents, there are a few independent comics publishers who are trying to do something different. Boom!, Iron Circus, and Emet, in particular, are comics publishers trying to appeal to new demographics. Looking at the popular titles–Jem and the Holograms, Lumberjans, Letters for Lucardo, and Fresh Romance–you can look at these titles and pretty easily say, “Hey, those are comics for girls and kids!” They’re popular across ages and genders, but it’s true that these comics appeal to those demographics, precisely because the Big Two (and Image isn’t blameless, let’s be real) worked so hard until very, very recently to phase these customers out. Comics were “for kids” right until the collector’s craze smashed into the 90s and all of a sudden people were dying in comics. And there were plenty of girl’s comics in the 50s until superhero comics took over as the preferred moneymakers, silencing the long history of girl-oriented romance comics.
Fresh Romance was created specifically to continue the work of old romance comics–to tell romantic, dramatic stories that make the audience swoon–in the 21st century. Both volumes include stories that span all sorts of genres, but all the stories fall under a diversity credos that really shines. Characters of various shapes, sizes, colors, and orientations grace the pages of both volumes, falling in love.
Diverse audiences have been clamoring lately for media that allows them to live in the same dreamworlds as white, straight protagonists, to fall in love and have adventures in the same way that Chris Evans gets to do. Fresh Romance is a very conscious effort to recruit diverse creators to make diverse content, and it’s the backbone of what makes these stories so sweet and swoonworthy. Both volumes start with stories with LGBT plotlines that highlight this; in both “School Spirit” of volume one and “One Lucky Bride” of volume two, the panels where our heroines kiss feel so, so amazing because the passion of the creators flows directly into the passion of the romance. You can find romances all over media, but ones that really have impact are rarer, and it’s Fresh Romance‘s rare talent to bring passion out in every story.
Volume 2’s new stories have brought some great new passions to the series. “One Lucky Bride,” as mentioned, is excellent, a sweet caper of a romance. “Under the Oak Trees” tells the story of a romance blooming in Sherwood Forest, and it does an excellent job of evoking a feeling of place. “Walk It Off” started slow but grew on me, a meandering, intimate tale of a road trip gone badly wrong. “The Only One,” a shorter story to round out the back of the collection, is a lot more melancholy and experimental, but the end feels very rewarding. Unlike the first volume, the second is entirely contemporary stories; I thought that would bother me more than it did. It was missed, but the stories told here were still told well.
I think it’s worth picking up if you didn’t Kickstart it and have any interest in sweet romance comics. Keep in mind that this is being distributed like most traditional comics, so pre-ordering involves going to a comic book store to pre-order. They can probably find it just by the name, but if they need a code, the one for this one is SEP171611.
How do you feel about Fresh Romance, or other independent comics? Let’s talk about it in the comments or on Twitter.