Written and lettered by Iolanda Zanfardino. Art by Elisa Romboli. Published by Image Comics/Shadowline.
Romantic comedies tend to get a bad rap. Although, it’s understandable. Hollywood has dished out decades of stinkers with contrived plots and cheesy drama. However, on occasion, there will be one that rises above the rest and demands attention. This time around it’s A Thing Called Truth, a five-part comic miniseries.
While romance has been part of the American comics landscape for decades, it usually comes in the form of teen melodramas. Romantic comedies, on the other hand, are a seldom occurrence. However, with the diversification of audiences and a greater prevalence of LGBTQ+ narratives, more are being published.
A Thing Called Truth takes the genre and refreshingly puts it in the context of two women – something rarely seen in film. The vehicle for this is a European road trip, which sees the pair of protagonists embarking on a mission to fulfil the dreams of one of the character’s deceased siblings. As you can expect, it’s a recipe for blooming romance.
It all begins with a car chase. In media res, readers are briefly introduced to the protagonists as they attempt to jump a moveable bridge in a muscle car. The sequence, that’s evocative in ways to the ending of Thelma & Louise, is exciting and tense. There’s one page that particularly stands out. It’s divided into three horizontal panels, with the top and bottom ones slanted to pinch the middle at the end. This narrowing of the panel adds tension as the reader contemplates if the car will make it through the boom gates in time.
From there, the comic goes back to formally present the characters. Readers are first introduced to Dr Magdalene Traumer, a quiet and dedicated scientist working on a medical breakthrough that could change the world. On the other side is Dorian Wildfang, a free-spirited punk who’s captivated by the kind of romance you see in the movies. As you can expect, this is used as an odd-couple situation. Each character tackles the misadventures in very different ways. However, as they evolve, it also plays into the comic’s central theme of living life to the fullest.
The idea of playing opposites off one another is also built into the comic’s romantic core. However, it’s done as a slow burn, simmering away instead of presenting the possibility upfront. However, as the characters evolve through their shared experiences, this romantic status shifts, ramping up readers’ expectations and the anticipation of these two women getting together.
For a romantic comedy to be effective, it needs to be able to communicate emotion as part of the storytelling. A Thing Called Truth succeeds through artist Elisa Romboli’s expressive characters. Whether it’s rage, frustration, longing, or even drunkenness, she finds the right combination of facial features and body language to portray the emotion. A great example of this is one early scene when Mags has a difficult phone call. You can read her frustration through her the shape of her mouth, head tilted backwards, and the pinching of the bridge of her nose. These little details bring characters to life and allow readers to get behind them.
Further to this, A Thing Called Truth is an attractive comic. Romboli opts for bold outlines, with finer lines that add additional detail. This could make the comic feel heavy, but there’s a good balance struck between the two.
This is complemented by mostly flat colours (with some gradients used in the background), allowing the art to pop without being busy. Colour also plays a big part in setting the tone for a scene. For instance, there is a scene in which Mags is having a difficult conversation which makes her emotionally low, where everything is washed in a deep blue. However, later on, the page features a lot of reds when her blood is boiling at an injustice. Colour is also used to add appeal to a location. The European cities that Mags and Dorian visit are brightly lit, giving them appeal and plays into their romanticism. (It’s also worth noting that these locations feel like European cities in how they’re rendered, which adds to the authenticity.)
The lettering is clear and uncluttered, flowing naturally around the page, making for an easy reading experience. Further to this, the sound effects are visually appealing and take on the visual qualities of the sound. For instance, there’s one establishing shot of a close up of a beaker full of liquid. Accompanied by all the bubbles is a satisfying “GLUB”, mimicking the other bubbles in that panel. The comic goes further by using lettering as a storytelling device, such as the handwriting font to let the reader know that the character is reading a journal entry. It’s combined with a purple glow that complements the page’s palette and adds emotion to what the character is reading.
My only criticism of A Thing Called Truth is that it feels like it ends too abruptly. While the endgame is satisfying, everything feels sped up to approach that moment. As a result, many plot threads are left dangling. Although, this is only a minor gripe as it feels like there could be a follow-up to this miniseries later down the line.
A Thing Called Truth is a great read, so here’s hoping there’s a sequel. It’s the kind of comic that will make readers cheer and elevates romantic comedies in a way that’s currently not happening in Hollywood at the moment.
A Thing Called Truth is now available in trade paperback and can be found in all good comic book stores, online stores, eBay, and digitally on Kindle. You can also read the first issue for free over on the Image Comics website.