There is a certain crowd-pleasing charm to a good rom com that no other genre can truly have. The romantic aspects of the story touch on serious, weighty issues with how we interact with others and what we hold dear. And the comedic aspects are just plain funny, giving us an excuse to enjoy the oddities of life and learn humorously from our mistakes. No Romance, a five issue series by Tony McDougall is a stellar romantic comedy and one of the first I’ve read in comic form. McDougall tells the story of three “30-something best friends”, to quote the book’s Amazon description, as they move through different stages of dating. Each issue tells three parallel stories of each couple: Matt and Amy, Dave and Melissa, and Jon and Helena. Each character is distinct and interesting. Some are archetypal, but only to the comic’s benefit.
No Romance paints these three relationships with an inevitable arc that starts off high and finishes low. Matt and Dave’s relationships have their ups and downs and their drama flows nicely between comedic beats. Even Jon, an initial disbeliever in romance, finds his love too, but soon realizes how complicated things can naturally get. No Romance‘s tone is not pessimistic- it enjoys the fun of relationships too much to be that- but it is realistic. Matt, Dave, and Jon go into their relationships with unrealistic expectations and ultimately, through loss and complication, learn about themselves and mature emotionally. No one is carried off into the sunset here, but then again, when does that really happen? But that shouldn’t negate the joyous moments that do exist either, of which there are plenty.
Some moments feel a little rushed and jumbled, like what happens to Jon and Helena between Issues 4 and 5. Other times, jokes from characters feel mean-spirited or oddly timed, especially with Matt and Dave. They don’t distract from the overall story, but do stand out in an otherwise very strong narrative. Honestly, for a genre that makes cliché and laziness so easy to do, the fact that No Romance tells its story in a unique and engaging way is impressive.
But credit is not due to the writing alone, as Rhoda Villegas‘ artwork is perfectly suited to this comic’s tone and feel. Everyone’s face is animated and cartoony, but not distractingly so. The backgrounds of some panels, mostly establishing shots, look like they are done in a blotchy, impressionist style. It’s a detail easily missed, but one that I appreciated immensely even before I noticed exactly what I was appreciating. The coloring by Patrik Mock is great too. Every panel is bright and expressive, but more than that, each of the three guy’s stories is designed differently to best match their tones.
The covers are all nice, but the middle three are especially fun as clever parodies of classic romantic situations and iconography. The pacing of No Romance is thoughtfully done, spreading its story nicely over just five issues. Each character’s narration fits well with their personality. When characters act frantically, the borders of their panels reflect that. And for big, carry-off-into-the-sunset moments, nothing works better than a classic splash page. I wouldn’t mind revising these characters again, but as it is, this story serves as a charming snapshot of their dating lives. No Romance is a fun, engrossing read with plenty of weight to it and much to enjoy. To take a cue from its characters, I’d cheer to that!
You can find No Romance here on Comixology! What makes a rom com great for you? Are there other comic rom coms that you recommend? Sound off in the comments or send us your thoughts on Facebook or Twitter!