Toxic Romance #1-4

Toxic Romance is a web-comic adapted from a screenplay. This may sound backwards amid our current frenzy of beloved comics of yesteryear dazzling the public in IMAX 3D, but let’s start off with a clear message: This is NOT your typical comic book.

Moody and cinematic, the very first panel of Toxic Romance is enough to set the general tone of the story to come. The reader is immediately confronted with half a William Shakespeare quote, a reference to Sin City, and the phrase “my chemical romance.” Don’t worry if the Shakespeare goes over your head; this is probably more appropriate. If Hyper-Masculine Noir hasn’t been coined as a genre yet, Toxic Romance is certainly worth moving us toward that direction.

The standout star of the show isn’t the concept, a character or the setting. The real art in this comic is…well, the art. With gritty, detailed inking done by pseudonym War and immaculate coloring (as well as writing and editing) by pseudonym Parkour, this web-comic is worth a look just for the look’s sake.

Unfortunately, with great art comes great responsibility. The storytelling of Toxic Romance has flaws that are more glaring errors than matters of opinion. To start, the coloring that is overlaid on each page looks fantastic when it isn’t literally covering up pieces of dialogue. While this only requires a little bit of patience on the reader’s part, it hinders the captivation that storytellers work to create. This can be particularly bad in certain pages to the point of losing the sense of plot altogether. Who is talking? Where are they? What’s happening? These can be good questions to make a reader ask, but here they are decidedly working against the comic. Otherwise, it’s worth noting that most of the panels simply move vertically one after the other. While some snobbier artists might call this too simple, the internet would disagree. Web-based comics that read like a twitter feed are very efficient and even if I am confused on the content of a panel, at least I always know which panel is next.

Our main character is Marcus. His internal monologue is heavy, jaded and about as overtly masculine as possible. His dialogue goes between perfect gentleman (for one or two interactions) and overcompensating for his comparatively small stature with a sailor’s mouth. In the beginning, we get our classic rascal. He has love in his heart and he’s dedicated the conquest but he’s all bark and no bite. In the broken urban environment of a post-apocalyptic manhattan, it’s amazing that he’s alive past the first issue. In fact, it’s fair to question how he made it TO the first issue. A quick training montage later on lets him level up and I believe his uphill battle has the chance to carve out a solid character. Only time will tell of course, and after four short issues we still only have a slightly tougher rascal.

The issue length is short and sweet. This leaves little time for exhibition. This is nice for people who enjoy moving forward with a story as quickly as possible, but may hurt your interest if you want to know more about the story. The best example I can give is an unnamed character who helps Marcus attempt to rescue his beloved Faith after previously sheltering them. The nature of their relationship isn’t explicitly stated. Simply put, he’s one of the good guys. How long can these details hang in the air before it upsets a reader? This is a matter of taste.

What Toxic Romance lacks in nuance, it makes up for with a punch in the face. The art is heavy-handed. The writing is heavy-handed. The characters are badasses for the most part. There are Nazis, drugs, guns, explosions, angel wings and even some quick, awkwardly placed romance. The story is a train off the rails. If the promise of a post-apocalyptic love story strikes your fancy, give it a read. Just don’t expect literary finesse from a web-comic that doesn’t seem to have an interest such.

Pros:
Cinematic Noir Tone
No Wasted Time
Gorgeous artwork
Built for Web-reading

Cons:
Shallow storytelling elements
Inconsistent dialog
Parts of story hidden by art

Final Judgement:
7

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