I love Oni Press. As a former comic store employee, Oni Press was the publisher we suggested when a person was looking for something new and different but wasn’t ready to jump completely out of their Marvel, DC, Image, and Dark Horse safety net. Oni was located somewhere on the publisher spectrum between Image and Fantagraphics. They weren’t mainstream, yet they also weren’t super indy. Furthermore, as cheesy as it sounds, they had a style that was both hip and smart. So whenever someone came and asked us to recommend something new, they were inevitably lead to our small but important Oni section. Love The Way You Love by Jamie Rich is an excellent compliment to Oni Press’ growing library of cutting age and interesting graphic fiction.
Volume 1 follows the character Tristan Scott, lead singer of the band Like My Dog, who has just returned from abroad after leaving the country following a nasty break-up. The character has appeared in Rich’s two novels The Everlasting, and Cut My Hair, both which have been republished by Oni. I have unfortunately not read these two book yet, but you don’t need to be familiar with them to follow this story. As Tristan returns home, confused and heartbroken, he faces a band that is simultaneously breaking apart and set for stardom. While leaving the airport to drive to his band’s show, he is captivated by a beautiful girl who accidentally bumps into him. He is completely stunned by the girl, but she slips away into a car before he has a chance to see her. The girl, Isobel, it turns out is engaged to a record producer who takes his fiancée to Like A Dog’s show in the hopes of signing the band to his label. We learn from Isobel’s interior monologue that she too was captivated by Tristan when she saw him in the airport. They both have no idea the other is there until the show begins. Edged on by both friends and coincidence, they both believe that their meeting is somehow destined. They kiss briefly and the book ends with Tristan watching as the girl of his dreams walks away with another man.
The first main strength of this story is that it is instantly understandable. That is not to say that it is unoriginal, just that people can relate to the story easily. Who hasn’t found themselves completely knocked off their feet at the sight of some amazing person? Who hasn’t had a moment of instantaneous connection that ended all too soon? Love The Way You Love asks the question of what would it mean if you ran into that person again. Surely it had to be destiny right?
Marc Ellerby’s art completely fits Rich’s writing. It is simple without being simplistic, and it is has comic strip feel without losing the seriousness of certain moments. The art seems to have manga influences that add to the overall playful and smart tone. I have always believed that manga artists are able to create a synthetic artwork that easily transfers from silly to serious without any discontinuity in the tone. That style is clearly represented in Ellerby’s excellent work.
The one aspect of the book that I find a little problematic is the pacing and character development. The major issue comes from the fact that Isobel is engaged to another man at the time that her and Tristan meet. I understand that this plot device is necessary; their needs to be something that stands in the way of Tristan and Isobel’s fate-inspired love, or else what’s the point? My only concern is that due to the pacing of the book two integral ingredients seem left out. The first is that despite the fact that he is clearly supposed to be an egotistical jerk, Isobel’s fiancée has not done enough to make me dislike him. Therefore I can’t help but feel some sympathy for the guy when his wife-to-be starts making out with a man she just met. The second issue I have is that there hasn’t been enough about Tristan to make me like him completely. He is interesting, but the first issue doesn’t do enough to make me root for him to get the girl. The most sincere emotional connection a person can have with a story like this comes from the reader’s genuine desire to see the two people get together. I don’t know enough about Tristan to want him to be happy and to share in his happiness when he gets the girl. The author does a great job of fleshing-out the character of Tristan’s kid brother Lance, but the same attention is not given to Tristan. Maybe I wouldn’t see the book in that light if I have read Rich’s prose novels, but thus far that is the most glaring issue in an otherwise enjoyable read.
Aside from the issue concerning the pacing, I really enjoyed this book. The story made me want to buy the next issue and isn’t that one of the best compliments a comic can receive? It definitely belongs in Oni due to its smart engaging style and great artwork. While I no longer work at a comic store, if I did I would recommend this book to someone who was looking for something different and something new.