The Comic Queen

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Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Missed the Boat: True Story Swear To God

Chances Are from http://www.ait-planetlar.com/True Story Swear to God
Clib’s Boy Comics and AiT/Planet Lar

I had heard good things about this ongoing series, now through issue 11, so I kept an eye out for a possible deal on ebay. Sure enough I managed to get issues 5–11 for a pretty reasonable deal, and I bought the collected issues 1-4 as a trade from AiT/Planet Lar. I had the entire series before me to read.

Like I said, I had heard good things. I was not in any way prepared, however, for how great this series truly is. Tom Beland has got to be one of the most overlooked and underappreciated artists around. His cartooning is superb, his use of the page is amazing, and his storytelling is addictive. What a wonderful series.

True Story Swear to God, is indeed a true story. Beland tells about how he met the love of his life, Lily, by complete chance in Disney World on a “work trip” by himself.

This relationship isn’t all roses and chocolates, though. It is a true story after all. Both Tom and Lily have their histories, their baggage if you will, and there’s the little matter of Tom living in Napa Valley, CA, and Lily living in Puerto Rico. I’ve understated that—not just living in their respective parts of their world, but having deep lifelong roots in those places. Yeah, you know, just a teensy weensy challenge there.

What really speaks to me in this series is the honestly with which Beland tells his story. It’s all out there for the reader (or at least seems so). Nearly every reader is going to have something to identify with--whether it’s the “am I worthy?” anxiety, the utter high of true love, the insecurity of performance, or leaving all that matters for the person that matters most.

I found myself sucked into the comics. I laughed out loud, I did the “you’ve got to read from here to here” to my partner, I shed more than a few tears. Sure, I’ll admit it, I’m a sucker for a romantic comedy or a touching story. I instantly get sucked into “Sleepless in Seattle” every time I happen to surf across it on the boob tube.

Beland, though, escapes the conventions and formula of the romantic comedy, not only because is this a true story, but also because of the skill with which he illustrates. He uses the entire page to showcase the emotions he wants to portray instead of boxing in the story to a pre-designed graphic formula. He uses a bold cartoonist’s line, but shows a versatility with his cartooning just as he does with his page design. He can make a scene very simple with a lack of even facial details or complicated with cross hatching and oodles of detail.

I really hate to label this series as a “romance comic,” because that phrase instantly turns off most people--me included. More like, this is what romance comics should be; and, in many ways, this is what more comics should be in general.

I’m at a loss to find a flaw with this series, and I can pick at and be critical of most anything, so that’s truly saying something. I’m giving this series my highest recommendation.

Bottom Line: A+

Although this is a “Missed the Boat” review, I luckily haven’t completely missed this boat, and neither should you. Issues 1-4 are available right now in the trade “Chances Are” and issues 5–11 were just solicited as the trade “This One Goes to 11” available to order in the most recent Previews catalog from AiT/Planet Lar.

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