Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Recently Read: Young Romance 2

Anyone who disparages romance comics probably 
A. hasn't read any and is instead thinking of Roy Lichtenstein paintings and, more importantly, 
B. hasn't read any created by Joe Simon and Jack Kirby, the enterprising gents who created the genre in comics.

The stories compiled in Young Romance 2, originally printed from 1947-1949, are dense, compelling little dramas; they could be short films churned out by Warner Bros. in the '30s. They deal with class systems, espionage, culture clashes, small town bigotry, post WWII societal problems, gossip, poverty and prejudice. They're hard-hitting, sometimes spectacularly violent. These aren't your laughable '70s DC romances drawn by Vince Colletta. Kirby crams detail into each panel as if he's directing a 1918 silent film; the art has much more in common with his late '70s Marvel comics like Machine Man than any of the '60s comics he's most known for.

The hardbound book is beautiful. Unlike what's promised on the front and back cover, the restorations published within aren't scanned from the original comics with printing dots intact. Instead, they were exposed to a solution process which eradicated the colors, leaving the black art behind. Once digitally enhanced, the result is black and white art amazingly faithful to the original. Although I prefer editor Michael Gagne's restorations from the first volume, the new process makes for immanently readable stories, using a color palate faithful to the original comics and set against a nice light beige background.
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