I have declared my high regard for the work of Thom Zahler a number of times now, have the pleasure of owning several commissioned pieces of art from him, and have had the privilege of meeting him in person two years running at Houston's Comicpalooza. My love for his work goes back several years now, to my discovery of the series with which he is most identified, Love and Capes: The Heroically Super Situation Comedy, as a web comic strip. At the time it was also being published as a small-press independent comic book, and was on the verge of the first collected edition being published by IDW, who have since continued publication of the comic book as a succession of short series each of which have subsequently garnered collections. This is the latest.
|2013 tee-shirt illustration|
I previously reviewed the first three volumes as a single post after reading the third upon its publication, and would refer you there for my overall thoughts regarding the series, its charming premise and characters (link). In more succinct form, it's the story of the growing relationship between Mark and Abby, a typical young couple except that Mark is also the super-hero known as the Crusader. Abby? – well, I would not call her an “ordinary” girl.... Anyway, volume one tells of their courtship, two of their engagement, three of their early marriage, and this fourth volume recounts Abby's pregnancy and the birth of their child. I'll give no more spoiler than that other than that there are the usual side plots and character development that Zahler handles with such finesse. Sometimes pages go without colorful costumes making an appearance, and even when they do, the fundamental heart of this series is built on the situations of everyday life, albeit often with the unique twist that the super-heroic life affords. I use the term “charming” above, and this is probably the only other super-hero series other than the original Captain Marvel as published in the Golden Age to which I would apply that description. I don't think it's happenstance that Zahler has expressed a wish to work with those wonderful characters, and that his art and story-telling style would fit them perfectly. My most recent commission from him is indeed of the real “Marvel Family” (see it here, link). He and I have similar views on those characters and what made them magical, and I would much rather see them under his care than that of their current custodians at DC Comics. Which is all rambling quite far from my topic. This is a truly great addition to a truly great series.
Overall, I find Love and Capes to be structured much like a British television show. It comprises multiple fairly short series that all go together to make a whole that is greater than its parts. Combined with Zahler's signature eight-panel pages with two story beats each, it makes for a refreshingly punchy, undrawnout story that keeps things moving. I've sometimes wondered if that television structure, as frustrating as it can be during the long waits between series, is why British television is often so much better than American, in that there is less of a tendency to dither on nonessentials with extraneous filler material. I'm not sure I'd want American comic books as a whole to follow the same model – I like the prevailing “neverending battle” mode of non-stop narrative, but here it definitely works. I can even see a danger for American creators trying to duplicate that “series of series” model ending up going too intense, trying to cram too much into the current story because there is no real assurance that present sales will warrant a future continuation. In fact, I think that's a common pitfall of summer blockbuster movies. But Thom Zahler brilliantly strikes the right balance, series after series. I have no knowledge of how far he intends to carry the story of Mark and Abby's growing family, but with quality like we've gotten thus far it could go on and on until Mark and Abby are old and grey with super-powered grandchildren and that next generation is carrying on their father's super-heroics, and I would still look forward to each new series.
Do yourself a favor and join the ride! (I don't normally link to sources for what I read and review, but I'm really wanting to push this, so go here – link.)