by Abigail Ortlieb Dean Haspiel's comic blows the mind and shatters the heart. It is a story of Haspiel's "romantic antihero," Billy Dogma, and his lover, Jane Legit. More importantly, though, it is about the apocalypse. There are even zombies, but not the undead kind.
The opening words of the story are bone-chilling, a heart-dropping realization that our world is too much like this apocalyptic tale. No bombs, no disease, no natural disasters: life is what destroys the world. People talking at each other, not to each other, wandering aimlessly with their technology and a universal mantra of "but, what about me?" is the death of civilization in The Last Romantic Antihero. I was immediately reminded of Open Boat by Stephen Crane, in which a sailor pleads with the raging sea to spare him with the line, "Yes, but I love myself." This self-love is the downfall of the people in Trip City, while Billy and Jane's love for each other is their salvation, instead crying, "What about us?"
The Last Romantic Antihero is a type of love story, complete with a "boy meets girl" background, but while the story's action revolves around Billy and Jane, it is those revolving things that Haspiel wants us to look at. Because Billy loves and cares about the well-being of someone other than himself, he stands out, but we aren't meant just to see him—it is the world around him that causes him to stand out that makes Haspiel's comic so transcendentally shocking and truthful.
The art is rife with visual metaphor and exaggeration as Billy takes on the technological age with Jane. Things that we take for granted in our everyday lives—things that have a huge impact on us that we rarely so much as acknowledge, like barcodes—become important and villainous. Haspiel doesn't need to resort to giant robot monsters or demons to make a statement, though. He uses these metaphors subtly, in a way that you see and absolutely understand right away because, once he helps you realize them, you recognize the truths behind them.
I would be remiss if I did not comment on how visually stunning this piece is. Billy's sharp angles are contrasted and complemented perfectly by Jane's smooth curves and the world around them is frequently shown in monochromatic, shattered pieces. Some of these images are NSFW, but never crude. There is no wasted space in this comic. It is short, by web standards, but no part of it is wasted on fluff. Haspiel's drawing gets right to the point so he can tell the story.
Though Haspiel has produced several other comics featuring Billy Dogma and Jane Legit, each stands on its own with its own specific message, so he doesn't need to fill space with things that are unimportant to this story but will become important in others. The result is a complex and complete tale that you can fully immerse yourself in.
TL;DR: The Last Romantic Antihero is a visually impressive work of literature. Though short, this apocalyptic love story fills every panel with beautiful art and hard truths that stop your heart with their simplicity.
The Last Romantic Antihero is written and illustrated by Dean Haspiel. You can read it on Trip City. (Unless you were one of the lucky few to get an exclusive print copy at MoCCA last weekend in which case we're jealous!)
Abigail currently writes freelance reviews for Spandexless and RTBookreviews.com, among others, and owns her own company, The Eccentric Perspective, creating wearable artwork. She has her B.A. in English and plans on graduate school, but refuses to ever drop the title, “Jack of All Trades.”