When I first laid eyes on this collection I knew I had to read it. The cover is stunning and the idea of Gothic romance comics instantly caught my attention, being a fan of gothic literature in its various forms. It was a fast read and while I found a few spectacular comics in the collection I ended up feeling only lukewarm overall.
Gothic Tales of Haunted Love seeks to revitalize an aging genre of literature while paying homage to the short-lived gothic romance comics of the 1970s and 1980s. Despite a variety of tropes that have become standard in the genre I feel that there is a lot more nuanced compared to regular paranormal romance and this is what I think left me feeling a little underwhelmed. There were certainly a few finely crafted horror stories, such as Secrets in Silk and The Return, but did they feel all that gothic to me? Not really, no.
One of the key elements in gothic fiction is the setting, something missing in many of the stories. Many of the authors picked up on common themes of love but most ended up falling under one of two categories: a romance that turns into murder and romance with a ghost or other paranormal creature. The book further tried to update the genre by painting the stories with the diversity brush which, don’t get me wrong, I love diverse stories, but I feel like some key elements of the genre were sacrificed in an attempt to reinvent it.
Now there were some wonderful pieces that I felt did a lot of justice to the genre while seamlessly including a diverse cast of characters. The first story in the collection, Crush is easily one of the strongest entries that really captured the vintage gothic romance feel in both story and art style. The art was reminiscent of older comics, the setting and time period fits, the characters have motivations that are both understandable and questionable, and the story kept me enraptured from start to finish.
Fazenda do Sangue Azul was another notable story that stayed true to the gothic style but in a completely foreign setting with a touching queer romance, I was in awe of the beauty of the story and art. L’Heure Verte was short and sweet and brings the whimsical feelings from a classic paranormal romance but updates it for the modern era. One More Cup and Ouroboros were some of the more unique stories that I greatly enjoyed and are easy favorites.
Sadly with such a huge cast of contributors, it was inevitable that the quality of the stories and art varied greatly and it really diminished my enjoyment of the collection as a whole. It was really disjointed hopping from a stellar comic to several that were mediocre. Despite that, there are definitely quite a few comics to admire here and are worth the read for lovers of gothic romance or paranormal romance in general.
“I kept returning to him, my love, year after year…”
Trigger Warning: Violence