By Frank J. Barbiere and Victor Santos

If you’ve been keeping up with the new Image series, Violent Love, then as of this most recent issue you already know it’s one heck of a book and authentic to its core. Here we get the very best aspects of two genres that clearly work as well together as they may on their own. Whether you are a fan of crime stories or love stories, it’s a sure bet comics readers will invest in what the creators label a crime/romance. It’s everything you’d expect, not only from the description, but also from professional comics makers with a passion for what they do.

The story of Daisy and Rock continues as things become slightly skewed due to a love triangle that unfolds while on the run. There are so many cool elements here: biker bars, street kid assassins, wartime flashbacks, guys with names like Johnny Nails, and a story that unfolds over target practice. Readers are filled in on a consistently rich storyline while the main characters shoot bottles in an open field. It’s the perfect setting for exposition, but this book never fails to keep us interested even during what amounts to down time. It’s a dark story with plenty of detail that only helps to round out Violent Love’s world. Writer Frank J. Barbiere uses issue #4, titled “Fine Young Knives” as a bridge for the story arc, keeping readers up to speed while taking a moment to deliver more crucial backstory and plot twists. As dark as the story can be — no matter which theme may be affected — there’s no denying the storytelling becomes downright poetic when events turn most gruesome. Using realistic dialogue and conversations, we watch as one scene leads to another while a heavy shadow is cast over what started out as a slightly lighter note than usual. Barbiere knows when to let the story work for itself and when to dial-up the action proving that he understands the necessary balance between themes in order for this book to live up to it’s name.

Commenting on scenes as poetic isn’t just some offhanded comment either because these folks aren’t afraid to drop the dialogue and let the images speak for themselves. In doing so, the panel arrangements as well as the images do more to speak volumes than any one character could achieve on their own. Artist Victor Santos delivers a visual monologue of sorts with sharp edits and silhouetted figures that dance between grim circumstances and mortal outcomes. The gritty aspects of a hunter vs. prey scenario ring true and result in blood spatters and betrayal enough for an entire series much less one issue. Whether this latest chapter feels like a pause at first, or not, one thing is for sure and that is Barbiere and Santos have a plan. Not only do they know where the story should go, but exactly how it should be presented. Through emotional color cues and ominous shadowing Violent Love is as beautiful as it is jarring, and in this case that’s a very good thing.

Expert writing matched up with ideal art is the best formula for any comic, but in a book about criminals and relationships it’s imperative that each step is taken with care. Have no fear, because Violent Love #4 continues to uphold the quality of this series while promising to keep us engaged in subsequent issues. Although you should definitely be reading along, this fourth issue wouldn’t be a bad jumping-on point if you wanted to test the waters before committing. Be warned, though, you’ll be clamoring for back issues in no time.

About The Author Matthew Strackbein

Matt Strackbein was born and raised in Maryland but has called Colorado home for the last 17 years where he lives happily in Longmont with his wife. He began reading comic books at the age of seven after discovering a silver age stash in his grandparents’ attic. Comic books inspired Matt to start drawing, which lead to a successful career as a commercial artist. He has worked in the apparel industry for many years as a production artist and designer. His accomplishments include designing backcountry skiwear for world-class athletes as well as downhill ski race suit designs for the 2014 Winter Olympics for the United States and Canadian national ski teams. Matt currently works as a freelance textile-print designer, but still dedicates time to his first love – comics. With over 200 letters to the editor published, Matt is a known letterhack. He self-publishes autobiographical comics about his struggles to break into the industry, which finally paid off when Dark Horse asked him to produce 2-page back up stories in recent issues of B.P.R.D. Besides his own comics, Matt collaborates on independent books as a colorist and letterer. He also teaches the art of making comics to students of all ages.