We all have our favorite Valentine’s Day traditions. Exchanging cards. Rewatching clips from The Office. Refreshing your knowledge of the holiday’s bizarre history. Whatever your preference, let me recommend you add something new to the mix: finding time to read the exceedingly silly, but unfailingly entertaining anthology book DC puts out every year to celebrate Valentine’s Day.
I’m a complete mark for these books, which are quintessential “hang out” stories. Nothing of consequence seems to happen, but for just a brief moment, we get to see the characters we love be happy. In these crazy times, I’ll take that as a win.
It helps that an all-star lineup of creators contributed to this year’s issue. Among the highlights this time around: Academy Award-winning writer John Ridley, longtime Nightwing and Batman writer Tim Seeley, and Sina Grace, whose excellent Iceman miniseries ended far too soon.
Not every story works, but when the stakes are this low, it’s hard not to smile at moments as absurd as Blue Snowman interrupting Wonder Woman and Steve Trevor’s date or Batman going undercover as Catwoman’s date to Maxie Zeus’ wedding.
What stands out about the planning that went into this issue is the commitment to diversifying what pairs are featured and what relationships they share. Two stories center around queer couples. Other stories, such as Grace’s one with Nightwing and Starfire, “Ex-Position,” show exes interacting in a way we rarely see in superhero comics, particularly in a healthy way. (Sure, a crazy plant monster functionally makes them do it, but still!)
Some other favorites:
In “A Tale of Two Titans,” two younger characters, Wallace West and Emiko Queen, go on a first date. The story, which ends up being less about the date and more about teenage hijinks and unrequited love, left me wanting to read 50 issues about these characters. Writer Marquis Draper wisely spotlights not just the young lovebirds, but the friends and teammates who are watching their romance blossom. Spoiler alert: someone ends up in the friend zone.
“Loose Lips” starring Perry White and Amanda Waller is an absolute romp as this wily duo meet for dinner in Washington, DC on a night where nothing is as it seems. The “love” those two share, if it can even be called that, is a kind of cautious respect: two masters of the trade in a staring contest to see who can blink first.
A much different kind of bond is the eternal one shared by Hawkman and Hawkwoman in “Together Forever.” In case you’re not familiar with two of the more convoluted backstories in superhero comics, the central idea is that these two people reincarnate over time but still always find each other. Their story is one of repetition and recurrence, which is thematically intriguing but not always narratively interesting. (If you keep repeating elements of your past lives, at what point does it start getting boring?) There is an undeniable hook to the idea of being destined for someone, however cheesy it may be, and writer Cavan Scott leans into the pathos of it all. “So many places. So many lives,” Hawkman narrates at one point. “And yet, whatever planet we call home, whatever faces we wear, we always have each other.”
The story hyped on the cover — and easily my favorite one of the issue — is “The Beginning,” a retrospective on Harley Quinn and Poison Ivy’s romantic relationship. These fan favorites, who are dating in the excellent Harley Quinn animated show but have been a less reliable pair on the page, get an excellent treatment from writer Tim Seeley (Grayson, Money Shot) and artist Rebekah Isaacs (Money Shot), who uses a series of splash pages to show scenes from their history together.
Harley and Ivy narrate the events while teasing each other about their own memories of what happened. The setup lets Seeley keep the focus on Isaacs’ gorgeous art while providing a convenient way to track these characters through continuity. The twist ending is both too-cute-by-half and a complete crowd-pleaser. Like the rest of the issue, I absolutely loved it.
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