Lerner Publishing Group’s My Boyfriend is a Monster series has two popular publishing trends covered: Graphic novels and post-Twilight YA paranormal romance. The series of standalone, black-and-white, hardcover graphic novels by different creative teams all feature fast-paced, rather light melodramas in which a teenage girl falls for a boy who’s not quite human (but close enough to pass).
In the first half-dozen volumes, the leading ladies became romantically entangled with a vampire, a zombie, a ghost, a Frankenstein-style monster, a fairy and a mummy. In the two latest volumes, My Boyfriend is a Monster #7: He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not and My Boyfriend is a Monster #8: A Match Made in Heaven, the line takes its inspiration from classic literature and religious literature, in the process perhaps stretching the definition of the word “monster” for its own purposes (Especially in the case of the latter).
He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not stars Serena Stevens, who is forced to move from San Antonio to the tiny town of Rojo, where everything seems to revolve around the local high school football team. Her new life there is anything but boring though, as she meets two very different guys who seem to be polar opposites in all respects, save for the fact that they are both tall, they are both handsome, they are both hiding something big and they seem to hate one another’s guts.
Readers get an early clue as to what exactly is up with Cam, the smart, sweet quite guy who studies at home, and Lance, the tempestuous, outgoing captain of the football team, when Serena’s English class is assigned a project on Robert Louis Stevenson’s The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.
Despite the over-obvious coincidence, writer Robin Mayhall builds a sometimes scary, always mysterious high school melodrama out of the DNA of Stevenson’s story, and the Jekyll’s formula-as-performance enhancing drug is a rather inspired application.
Artist Kristen Cella has a nice, realistic style that grounds the more fantastic elements—which could easily have overwhelmed the narrative, frankly—and through it she manages to pull off a high degree of tension about whether Cam and Lance are really the same person or not, thanks to the way she’s designed and rendered the pair.
If the cover of A Match Made in Heaven doesn’t spoil exactly what’s different about high schooler and aspiring comics creator Morning Glory Conroy’s new crush, his name probably will. Gabriel DiAngelo (did you figure it out yet?!) is a transfer student with long blond hair, unearthly good looks and a surprising interest in Morning Glory and her best friend Julia Alvarez. He’s so interested, he blows off the other, more popular girls belonging to the amusingly odd cliques that generally walk all over our M.G.
Gabriel’s not the only new transfer student. He’s followed by his cousin Luci, who is as wicked as he is nice, and insists she’s named after her uncle. She tries to make our heroine’s life…um, well, hell.
This offering has a particularly noteworthy creative team, in that it is written by comics writer, artist and historian Trina Robbins, who ought to attract some comics fans to the series, and who lends quite a bit of authenticity to her comics artist heroine and the scenes set at and around a self-publishing mini-comics festival.
The art comes courtesy of Irene Diaz Miranda and Laura Moreno Fernandez (who draw under the shared moniker of “Xian Nu Studio “) and Yuko Ota. It is in a heavily manga-influenced style, in lay-outs as well as character design, never more so than when we see panels or pages of Morning Glory’s own comic, Steamgrrlz.
It’s worth pointing out that the religious content is barely there in this book. While Gabriel explains his backstory at one point, which includes the rebellion in heaven and the fall of the angels that become Satan and his demons, words like God, Heaven, Hell, Satan, Devil or Lucifer never get mentioned.
Instead, there are two camps of angels, good ones that want to guard and protect humanity, and another which is anti-human. Luci’s uncle leads the bad angels.
The careful handling of the material might strike adult readers as unusual, but younger readers likely won’t notice. It’s not really about religion anyway; Gabriel is more of a Christmas or guardian angel than a messenger-from-God sort.
While Morning Glory seems to have it a bit easier than Serena, what with a guardian angel seeming a much safer “monster” than a chemically-induced split personality case, her relationship is hardly divinely ordained: Chemical concoctions can eventually wear off, but the whole mortal/immortal thing is no small obstacle to overcome. In both cases though, it’s fun to see the plucky heroines and their bestial beaus give it a go.