“The world is finally ready for our type of love,” Mari tells Hazel, and the same is true of Bingo Love, a sweeping romance that puts gay love center stage the way straight love’s been celebrated for years.
Picked up by Image Comics, following a successful Kickstarter campaign, Bingo Love is a 90-page graphic novel about soul mates, Mari and Hazel. Traversing their lives from 1963 to 2038 (we even see writer, Tee Franklin, propose some future technology), Bingo Love singles out their relationship as its primary focus, while leaving other aspects of their lives to be less fleshed out.
It’s a smart decision, but one that couldn’t have been easy to stick to – with characters this indelible, you want to know everything you can – but by staying disciplined, Franklin uses her page count to the fullest. That being said, if somewhere down the line a monthly comic were to arise from this title, with the same creative team filling in the years and characters, that would be amazing, too.
Where so many Romcoms create drama from communication problems, Mari and Hazel talk all the time. It takes a while before they act on their feelings (and because Bingo Love is written from Hazel’s point of view, you empathize with her fear that she’ll jeopardize their friendship) but once they do, they never put themselves in a position where they have to question the other person’s feelings again. The obstacles preventing them from being together are societal, not personal, with their families creating ultimatums against their love. When they’re discovered, they don’t pull away from each other but hold on tighter, and the absence of regret or bitterness when Hazel looks back is hugely affirming to read.
Bringing the ache to this romance are the combined powers of artist, Jenn St-Onge, and colorist, Joy San. This is a book where every kiss gets a verbal, “Whew,” where the rising pink backdrop is enough to make a person woozy, and the intensity’s the same every time. Unicorns and doves are needed to suggest the potency of Mari and Hazel’s love, and the warmth in Hazel’s eyes could heat up a room. This is pure, unshielded affection, with faces being cradled and rose pedals floating around. No one looking at them could confuse what they feel for each other.
St-Onge and San design clothing that flatters and empowers the female form. From the period fashions and hairstyles, to churchgoers attending bingo in their Sunday best, Bingo Love dresses women of every age, skin tone, and body type. Along with a monthly comic, the world urgently needs a Bingo Love clothing line.
Cardinal Rae’s letters provide powerful, visual constants in a cyclical narrative. Bingo-inspired dialogue bubbles, outlined in red, turn conversations public, for everyone to hear, while the ugliness of the world can be found in yellow starbursts with blue type.
It’s instructive during these arguments to see how Hazel handles herself, for the respect she shows others is equal to the respect she shows herself. While open to hashing things out, these disagreements won’t be one-sided. Until her challengers are up for having a conversation, Hazel stands her ground, in a way that makes her a role model to women, young and old.
There’s truly only one thing I wasn’t crazy about, and it has nothing to do with the graphic novel, but the decision to advertise two upcoming digital releases in the story as editor’s notes. It’s a sales gimmick that feels out of place when you’re reading, and the way it’s done, too, feels like information’s being held hostage, when that’s not really the case. These shorts are of absolute interest to readers, and their existence is fantastic news, but they should have been promoted at the end of the book, instead of mid-story.
That incredibly small, barely related gripe aside, I have to share this story about my reaction to the ending, because when I first finished Bingo Love I thought something didn’t add up, and that was going to be my one, small gripe for this review. Then the truth dawned on me, like a thunderbolt from the sky, and it’s been this second chance to love Bingo Love even more than I thought possible.
There’s a real need for gay love stories told with this much positivity and light. Don’t let your Valentine’s Day go by without this graphic novel. It will bowl you over faster than Cupid’s arrow.
Bingo Love goes on sale Valentine’s Day, February 14th, 2018.