Written by: Justin Jordan
Art by: Donal Delay
Colorists: Omar Estevez & Felipe Sobreiro (1-5)
Letterist: Rachael Deering
Release Date: 2/7/18
Death of Love is the newest Image mini-series, the first of five. It follows the life of Philo Harris, a self-obsessed asshole who is tired of being the nice guy when it only ever lands him in the ‘friend-zone’. Justin Jordan makes no qualms about the fact Philo is an asshole, but Jordan’s goal of making Philo interesting is a limited success. There are already so many narratives around similar characters that a tale around Philo feels unnecessary. Philo’s personality is not strong enough to carry one-note characterization, even with his roommate Bob Lyedecker playing a strong foil for contrast. The dialogue between them is a highlight, filled with little social intricacies that dialogue sometimes lacks. Unfortunately, Bob is also one note, as is Philo’s love interest Zoe. The weaker characterization hinders Jordan’s excellent dialogue from taking off.
Thankfully the story of Death of Love is an interesting concept. Philo ingests a pill that allows him to see a literal interpretation of love, in the form of cupidae. The issue opens with a weary Philo attacking a handful of cupidae with a chainsaw and the title implies a war between Philo and love. It is zany enough that it justifies the flashback of an indeterminate amount of time, another overdone storytelling trope. Eris, the man who gives Philo the love pills, implies that there may be more side effects from the pills than visualizing cupidae, but you will have to wait until future issues to find out.
Donal Delay does an excellent job of creating the Death of Love world. It is full of little dirty details, like chipped fingernails and stains on tabletops. His art looks best when it is a state of motion, like blood splattering or Philo pulling the starter cord on his chainsaw. Philo and his friends are what you imagine hipster stereotypes to be, but they offer distinct visual designs with an old-timey feel.
Delay creates a lot of wild unruly hair of various lengths and colors that spice up the pages. There is an artistic obsession with hats that helps to diversify characters even further. His faces suffer from an over-reliance on lines but not always. Zoe has a ton of character in her design, but my favorite detail is how the lines across her cheeks scrunch up when she smiles.
I appreciate when a comic indicates what work guest artists do in the issue. Sometimes it is obvious, but often when it comes to colorists, it is harder to pick up where the break between styles are. Felipe Sobreiro opens the book with pages that contrast bright monotonic reds with dark blues. He indicates the pale color of Philo’s skin while he is on the drug to strong effect.
After the flashback, we switch to the main colorist, Omar Estevez. Of the two, I prefer Estevez who uses a lot more multi-toned colors; Zoe’s coffee shop is an explosion of color that stands out from the rest of the book. I don’t expect bold colors as if this story takes place in a carnival, but the more complex even your blandest palettes are, the more alive the world feels. It helps distinguish places that should be more stylistically devoid of color, like Philo’s bare-bones apartment.
Rachael Deering’s letters leave a lot to be desired. It is very generic lettering: there are generic bubbles shapes, generic accent choices, and generic caption boxes. Bold lettering is used to indicate shouting or emphasis but there is no visual indication of whispering. Lettering can enhance the panels they are laid over, but that is rarely the case here. My favorite thing about the lettering here is when the lettering makes the art textual, such as when Philo tosses his hat and the word toss follows behind the traveling hat. She does this to comedic effect a couple times that work really well.
The biggest surprise and quite possibly the strongest part of the issue is Doctor Nerdlove’s letter in the back. It is a cultural reference landmine from the mind of Harris O’Malley, who I used to listen to back during the Spill.com days.
Death of Love is an interesting concept that is executed with problems. Each member of the creative team has strengths and weaknesses, but they are not able to enhance one another’s craft. If I am going to read a comic critical of the types of narrative that it itself is, then I would like stronger characterizations. Watching an asshole declare war on physical manifestations of love should be more fun than it is in this issue.
Review by: Shaun Martineau