Releasing on Valentine’s Day from Image Comics, Bingo Love is the story of two women who met and fell in love during the 1960s, just to be separated by their homophobic families…until meeting again by chance fifty years later. The graphic novel is written by Tee Franklin, drawn by Jenn St-Onge, and colored by Joy San. So, does this feel-good story navigate the topics of oppression and loss effectively? Is it good?
I’ll give Bingo Love this: as far as I can tell, it is exactly what the creators aimed for it to be. The two lovers, Hazel and Mari, make a charming couple when they first meet, and their affection for each other is very touching. I don’t think there was a moment in the entire novel where I questioned the characters’ emotions or felt like their actions didn’t make sense in context. This sense of authenticity is enhanced greatly by St-Onge’s artwork, as the characters’ facial and bodily expressions are rendered very effectively.
With all of that said, my main qualm about Bingo Love is that it doesn’t do enough to make the reader feel the characters’ emotions as well. The main couple declares their love for each other in grandiose terms on countless occasions, and while it never feels forced or unrealistic, it does border a bit on cliche. The fact that the novel takes place over such a long period of time doesn’t help either. It’s extremely difficult to convey fifty years of emotion in only twice as many pages, and I don’t think the creative team quite pulled it off here.
Thankfully, when the story slows down and takes its time developing single scenes, it shines. The strongest portion of the novel is probably the aftermath of Hazel and Mari’s initial reunion, in which Hazel faces her husband and tells him the truth about her old lover as well as her sexuality. This results in heated arguments and a difficult decision between staying married for her family’s sake or getting divorced to pursue her own joy. Small details in these scenes, such as the divorcing couple’s physical interactions with their family photos, help embody the larger conflict in small, affecting ways. There’s a lot to be said for conveying the realities of the body on the page, and it’s when Bingo Love does this that it’s at its most poignant.
Bingo Love is very much a “love is love” tale that’s meant to make the reader smile, and it succeeds in doing that. The artwork conveys the characters’ emotions in charming ways, and specific scenes have touching details that truly bring out the emotion in grandiose events. Unfortunately, the novel bites off more than it can chew and the characters’ lives never become immersive enough for the writing’s more cliche aspects to be fully forgiven. I would recommend this book for children or families with children, but not so much for adults with better, more unique options.
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