Love and Capes #10, Maerkle Press
by Thom Zahler
SIGNIFICANCE: Forget the publishers and retailers that made Free Comic Book Day possible, and let's acknowledge the makeshift holiday's unsung heroes: the girlfriends geeks dragged around to multiple comic book stores on a perfectly beautiful Saturday afternoon. While many of them rolled their eyes at the likes of regular superhero/fantasy fare like Blackest Night or The Stuff of Legend, Thom Zahler's Love and Capes might've caught their attention, and rightfully so. Love and Capes caters to both the diehard superhero fan and the woman in his life looking for a way into that rather exclusive world -- and most importantly, it's entertaining.
STORY: I've been a fan of Love and Capes for a long time, and creator Thom Zahler was kind enough to send me complimentary copies of the first few issues a few years ago, so I'm familiar with its lead characters the Crusader, his fiancee Abby, their friends Charlotte and Darkblade, and Crusader's super-ex Amazonia. In this issue, Abby longs to understand the struggles Crusader experiences as a superhero, so she solicits a friendly sorcerer to bestow her similar powers for a limited time, and while what ensues is a string of episodic inside jokes about the responsibilities of super-heroism, Zahler's story takes a mature, tragic twist to keep his characters' feet on the ground -- literally. Generally, Zahler paces his story in four panel bursts, with a punchline or significant develop every fourth panel, which serializes the overall adventure and maintains a playful, episodic tone. Finally, his respect of both superhero and relationship-oriented pop culture fuels a respectful tale that should entertain a definitively co-ed audience. It ain't called Love and Capes for nothin'!
ART: Love and Capes is an one-man show, so while I feel Zahler's strength is in his storytelling and dialogue, his illustrations are equally capable. Betraying shades of Bill Finger and Bruce Timm, his art is cartoony without being cartoonish, since so much of the story concentrates on legitimate adult concerns. His lettering and coloring skills are fluid and critical to the art and page design, creating an overall crisp, commercial package that is as appealing and universal to look at as it is to read. Speaking of which . . .
PACKAGE: Like Erik Larsen with Savage Dragon, Thom Zahler was willing to offer a new issue in the sequence of his series as a Free Comic Book Day offering, which is bold considering the seemingly independent status of Maerkle Press and the ease with which these episodic strips could be placed into a reprinted sampler anthology. Zahler's inside front cover is a perfect primer, with his bio, a story synopsis, and character descriptions -- but the best marketing ploy is in the back, when Thom invites readers to Crusader and Abby's wedding by personalized caricature via a $25 cost. Honestly, I'm considering the offer, because who wouldn't want to appear in a comic book, especially one so critical to the series' development? His pitch is the best: "You might not have been invited to Lois and Clark's wedding. You probably couldn't attend Peter and MJ's wedding (and, if you did, you don't remember it)." Hilarious!
DO I WANT MORE? Isn't it obvious? While Love and Capes isn't an action-oriented superhero title, it doesn't pull any punches in its wry sense of humor or thorough exploration of super-powers in the real world context of male/female relationships. The question isn't really if I want more -- it's, would the lady in your wife want any? If so, this is the book for her.