Cupid’s Arrows and Time & Vine

Before I get into these two trades, I have to point out that while I was reading Noble Causes, I couldn’t help but think of Thom Zahler’s Love and Capes. But whereas Jay Faerber’s book is a soap opera with superheroes, Love and Capes is a sitcom with superheroes. And the adventures of that particular super family is something I came to pretty late and need to go back and see if I can collect or read online. Thom’s non-superhero stuff, though, I think I’ve read completely. Or at least I’ve bought everything available the three times I have gone and seen him at the Baltimore Comic-Con, which is where I bought these two books.

Funny enough, even though they’re definitely love stories (one more than the other), I wasn’t saving them for February; they just happened to go into the reading pile and then I wound up reading a ton of war books in November, all of Batman’s late-90s crossovers in December, and sci-fi in January. But when February rolled around, they went into the to-read pile. I think I read both in the matter of two days.

I’ll start with Cupid’s Arrows. This is the story of Rick and Lora, who are two agents of Eros/Cupid, the ancient god of love. Their job is to basically do what he’s famous for doing, which is hitting people with arrows so they will fall in love with one another. They also dress in suits, so picture Mulder and Scully or the Men in Black but on the quest for romance instead of aliens. The plot behind it is that we see them over the course of several episodes trying to hook people up while it’s obvious that they are in love with one another. Buuuut workplace romances are forbidden, so it’s not going to happen. Or is it?

I’m not going to go much further with the story because I really think you should read it. In one of the text pieces in the back of the book, Zahler talks about how much he enjoyed the ABC series Cupid, which starred Jeremy Piven, and I could see that influence without even reading that text piece. I also knew this would be good going in because I’d already read Long Distance and Warning Label, one of which is straight-up romance and the other of which is romance with a supernatural twist. In fact, I think that he’d be great for an adaptation of or story in the same vein of Twelfth Night or As You Like It. But maybe that’s because I’m doing Shakespeare with my freshmen right now. Really, though. That would be so cool.

Time & Vine is about a winery in upstate New York whose cellar has the power to transport you back to the year that is on the label of whatever bottle of wine you drink. Our main character is Megan, a high school history teacher who goes to the Aeternum Winery with her friends and is taken under the wing of the winery’s owner Jack, who quickly reveals the time traveling secret. She begins working there part time and uses some of the trips to look at her favorite parts of history as well as visit some of the past of her mother, who has Alzheimer’s. Jack also has particular reasons for traveling back in time, and as the book plays out, it’s not as #RomanceComics as Cupid’s Arrows or Young Love or Secret Hearts, but there is a love story contained within what’s also a really poignant story about loss and grief.

I can’t remember if he told me about this when I spoke to him in Baltimore a couple of years ago or if I read this somewhere, but I want to say that this is partially inspired by the Christopher Reeve movie Somewhere in Time, which features a bed and breakfast that has him traveling back in time to fall in love with Jane Seymour (at least from what I can remember–it’s been a couple of decades since I saw that movie, although I still have the sheet music to the theme song. Anyway …). As a conceit, Time & Vine sounds like … well, I think of the various TV show pitches that Jerry and George came up with before settling on “Nothing” on the “Jerry gets a sitcom deal” episode of Seinfeld. But this works so freaking well. From the moment Megan took the first trip, I wanted to guzzle this entire book down.

Oh ffs, am I really going to write that bad of a phrase for this?

Truly, I think I read this in an hour. It’s fun and it’s sweet and even poignant. And overall, both books are not only outstanding but they’re the type of stories I didn’t realize that I was missing until I actually found them. Too many love stories in comics can be overwrought or take themselves too seriously, or the art is way too … is “pretentious indie” an aesthetic? You know what I mean. Very often, these are light but they’re not saccharine and they certainly are not fluffy. The characters feel very real and in some cases very lived in, even when he’s having fun with genre tropes. And I just love his art style.

If you’re interested in what he’s worked on/is working on/has for sale, here’s a link to his site.

Keep, Sell, Donate, or Trash?


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