Comics Are Trying to Break Your Heart #96 by Drew Barth

Energized and Anthologized Vol. 2

All right, collective exhale. Un-clench your jaw. One immediate existential threat mitigated, many more to go. But this is where comics come in—we can have these moments to come together to create things and collectively take a second. It’s why things like anthologies are some of my favorite publications in the medium: a collective work of wonderful creators making the comics they want to see in the world along a singular theme. I’ve talked in the past about the Ex.Mag anthology series that Peow Studio kickstarted earlier this year and how that was one of the best encapsulations of comics this year. Good news, volume two was recently released into the wild and, to the shock of no one, it continues those quality comics with a new theme: paranormal romance.

But what is paranormal romance in the context of this anthology? Much like how many minds can interpret “cyberpunk” from the first volume to mean many things, this volume is no different. From ghosts, spirits, demons, beasts, seraphim, and so on, we have a variety of different romantic partners in these stories. But even with the word “romance” in the title, that doesn’t mean every single story is going to end happily, or even well, for many characters. And when you have creators like Natasha Allegri, Luis Yang, Leslie Hung, Yon Lee, and others, there are so many ways these stories can go and every single one creates worlds and experience unlike anything else in comics right now.

This is also an anthology that explores our relationships with time and distance. One of the major themes a lot of stories in Ex.Mag vol. 2 work with is how space—physical and chronological—can affect who we are the stories we can tell. Stories like “Ex Girlfriend,” “Return to Sender,” “Man in Passing,” and “Our House” deal with variations on the ghost story. Either a lingering spirit attached to an object like a letter or a house or the ghost that doesn’t want to let go of their relationships. These are all spirits that, for the most part, know that their time is up—they’re an ex-person and need to move on—but it’s hard to let go. So, what can anyone do? Some people force the ghost away, some become a ghost themselves, while others are taken by the spirits around them. It’s horrifying and comforting in equal measure, but then your idea of romance can be different.

Anthologies will always be the incubators of the best ideas in comics and Peow Studios has proven that twice now with their Ex.Mag anthologies. With one more volume left in the series, Dark Fantasy, coming up sometime soon, we can only get more excited for what’s left to come. And with this volume providing some of the highest quality work in comics right now, the quality can only be consistent.

Get excited. Get romantic.

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Drew Barth (Episode 331) is a writer residing in Winter Park, FL. He received his MFA from the University of Central Florida. Right now, he’s worrying about his cat.