This comic book, or "graphic novel" for those inclined to the term, possesses many of the right elements to make it a successful work, yet beyond theme, high concept, character work and the talent showcase of two internet darlings, Lovestruck falls short, lacking the necessary punch to send this comic over the line of "just OK" to something worth gabbing about. And the reason why wasn't something easy to pinpoint, because as I said, Lovestruck had all the right elements. I should have enjoyed this comic much more than I did. When I finally looked it over again though, in preparation for this review, I realized the error rested in the story's structure rather than the surface elements. That's what threw me off, and I think in the end it's what makes Lovestruck an example.
That no matter the subjective highlights or cool ideas, poor execution and craft can easily inhibit a story from having its full effect.
What happens here is the first act goes on far too long and eats up the pull of acts two and three. Lovestruck sits as a 6-chapter story, which I believe at one point would have been six separate issues, but rather than dividing acts, spending two issues in each department, Lovestruck champions a first act that lasts right around 3 and half, almost 4 issues. By definition, a first act should introduce characters, setting, rules and some initial sense of conflict - a conflict that later fleshes out in act 2. Hopeless and Mellon certainly do that, but by drawing out this stage of the story the team stunts the reader, inhibiting them from completely submerging themselves into the heart of the narrative because they are helplessly stuck at its beginning.
What eventually becomes the heart of Lovestruck's story is it's protagonist Kalli Monroe's struggle with Love, as both a concept and emotion, and how her story can kind of speak for both people and the state of our culture and how things seem manufactured. As a reader, you receive inklings of that up front, but Hopeless and Mellon seem set on the high concept and introducing it over and over. Rather than bringing Kalli into the world of "Love, Inc" and making her a corporate spy - you know, selling that in one mission or one example of what that concept entails - they run through the scenario a few times, which at some point feels like you're being hit over the head with the concept.
Ultimately, it distracts from what the core of Lovestruck is because the idea of secret missions, while entertaining, sets the reader up to where I think you would expect a main mission or main conflict set to the tune of the high concept. What really becomes the conflict though is Kalli's struggle as well as her past relationships, and the missions, the team of "love spies" become this odd backdrop after spending so much of the story's time on it.
But I think, though, once you get by the first 3 and half issues, Lovestruck picks up the pace and delivers the narrative it was intended to. And though the pacing disrupts the necessary punch, the book still supplies, one, a creative, engaging concept backed by a human theme, and two, some very nice character work.
Hopeless has a way with dialogue, and I honestly enjoy his characterization of Kalli Monroe. Rather than being a typical female in a comic book, Hopeless makes Monroe a very independent, capable character who's not the sexually driven vixen you might see in any other handful of comics. She has spunk, and her voice is very distinct, right down to the nervous ramble he supplies her. The same is true for the rest of the cast. Every character is distinct in their voice while offering different perspectives on the matter of love and passion. The personalities are there, yes, and I'd say, along with Mellon's art, it's what ultimately pushes you through the comic.
And speaking of Mellon's art, I feel his visual style captures the intended aesthetic and tone of rock 'n' roll and guitar swag so well. The line work is delicate at times to contribute to the female lead, but when necessary, when the notes speed up and the distortion kicks in, Mellon's line can gain the ridge and edge necessary to communicate the passion and rage the character presents. His layouts are also, for the most part, on point and tell the story, sentence to sentence. Lovestruck, in no huge way, looks poor.
Overall, I'd cite Lovestruck as a developmental work. I think it showcases two creators learning how to tell a complete story, both succeeding and failing in certain areas. I know Hopeless and Mellon plan to collaborate more in the future, so it's very possible next time around they'll land the punch I wanted to take reading Lovestruck.
Still, I'd say it's a worthwhile read, especially if you love music and either used to, or still do, attend shows.
TL;DR Lovestruck supplies a creative concept and some sense of voice, but I'd say the structure of the narrative is a detriment to the overall investment a reader makes in the reading experience.
Lovestruck was written by Dennis Hopeless and illustrated by Kevin Mellon. Published by Image Comics, you can purchase it at your local comic book shop or support Spandexless and buy it from our web store.