Leonardo DiCaprio is an Oscar-award winning actor famous for movies such as Titanic, The Wolf of Wall Street, Inception, and Shutter Island. Since his rise to fame and glory, the public found amusement in his less-than-savory dating history where he dates young women and breaks up with them after they turn 25 years old. Liv Stromquist, a 44-year-old comic creator, decided to uncover the secrets as to why and how romance has changed over the years in a realistic yet comedic manner.
Stromquist’s history in comics is as comedic and fascinating as The Reddest Rose itself. At the age of five years old, she decided that comics were going to be the path that she followed. Like most comic creators, she realized that she didn’t want to be an ordinary comic creator, and The Reddest Rose reflects that. The Reddest Rose is an analytical comic book, it has the credits of philosophers such as Eva Lllouz and Byung-Chul Han as she figures out how and why narcissism and the modern age have changed the act of love drastically.
What makes the comic tick for me is not the satirical nature of everything, but how it brings comic books back to their natural roots. Stromquist’s philosophy is punk and feminist, which is what ruled the comic book industry from the 1980s to 1990s. It allows us to laugh at ourselves in a way that Alison Bechdel’s Dykes to Watch Out For could have and allows us to criticize ourselves like any good classic punk zine. This is what builds a strong analytical foundation. To have your influences out in the open from start to finish allows us to feel at home in what we’re reading. The added punk elements aren’t truly necessary but it makes everything feel complete and allows Stromquist to make us uncomfortable while she effectively calls the modern age out.
This is a comic book that is not designed for the average comic reader and in some ways, that could kill a comic book. There is no story, no hero, no side characters, and no villain. This is an analytical thesis on love that laughs both at you and with you. How ambitious the comic is, however, is what hinders and supports it. Stromquist didn’t make a comic book; she made a journalistic examination with a cartoonist’s eye and the touch of the talented translator Mellisa Bowers and many of Fantagraphics’ brilliant minds. I don’t truly believe that the book’s unusual style and nature are what could turn readers off of the book, a sarcastic yet informative look into dating apps and comedic historical recreations of Plato and the sea of Greek Philosophers may have a narrow audience.
Is it a pity? Absolutely. Will it scare others from writing and drawing comic books like this? Not at all. I believe that despite the wackiness of analytical comics, this is a deeply important part of comic books. This teaches us that comics can be used for more than superheroes, monsters, and kung-fu turtles. I truly believe that Stromquist paints the path for an area of the comic book industry that is designed to make us think and that will make people remember this book for the rest of time.
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