Required Reading is DoomRocket’s love chest, opened once a month to champion a book that we adore and you should read. The latest: ‘No Love Lost’, available now from Peow Studio.

by Arpad Okay. The ideas in No Love Lost drive me wild. In the year 2233, in an envelope of space-time, a pair of agents clear out the last automatons and end the terraforming process. They are lovers algorithmically paired for life, and they are deadly. One wields a halberd that slices a laser wave, a ranged energy weapon designed for taking down robots vastly greater in size than man from a significant distance. And it’s a sky scalpel compared to the blunt force of the shield-lance combo carried by its partner.

A black hole space anomaly borked their ship and split them up and, uh, perhaps bent time a bit. Or history on the lost planet upon which they find themselves beached has been faked so that whatever is really going down here is doing so in secret. No Love Lost has intrigue. The stories these lovers blunder into in their attempt to reunite are just as compelling as their own. Luca Oliveri’s romance also has me thinking of Saga, where the lovers must stand against an entire world to be together, but adding a world’s worth of troubles obscures the presence of the couple in the book. It is about them getting back together.

Impossible conditions begin colliding as the story heats up. She falls in with star hunters and when you run with pirates you’re bound to be pursued. He lands in a sedate agricultural community where the big challenges are keeping the boredom at bay and your junk in your pants. This mining company isn’t on the books and the political quagmire that comes with their secret labor planet is no small obstacle to get around for either of the star-crossed couple. And adding super-space-terraformer-destroyer-tech to urban unrest as each agent approaches the industrial heart of the planet is a recipe for chaos. But every card is wild in No Love Lost.

I can’t get the tank chase out of my head. It looks like a rice cooker on wheels. The top pops open! Excellent for flinging off meteor-brigands trying to worm their way in. It has a gunner’s turret and clocks a respectable speed on a deserted night’s highway, it’s wicked fast for a tank but that’s what it is. The cannons come in handy when a group of raiders in a tank and truck brigade of their own show up to sell you for parts. Once your weapons overheat, they have a vehicle to bust your tires and swallow your hobbled ride whole. What they don’t know about is the halberd.

Not meant to be operated inside a moving vehicle(s).

The knife is in the hands of the shield maiden, and the boy who can’t pull his eyes from the horizon now holds the hammer. On one side of the planet, he’s asleep in a barn; on the other end of the world she’s crouched behind the counter at the diner so she won’t be spotted.

On both sides some horniness. They are lovers, after all. But neither of them can get by alone, right? It’s about drawing that line. Desire. Fidelity. Those great manga moments when you try to be respectful, get hit in the face with a rake, and end up in a pile with someone whose underwear is around their ankles.

Image: Peow Studios

Speaking of taking manga conventions and elevating them, No Love Lost is done with screen tones shading and shaping the art, but in color. Colors. Like many Peow Studios books, it is printed in two colors (this one is in black and Pantone 171U) in a kind of double monochrome. Dot density makes for grays that range from faint to opaque, but the fleshy red comes in a million variations of pink orange peach, more where it crosses over the range of gray. Vivid pop to its pages and never compromising its style, a love affair with print making. This shit is magic.

The line art is wondrously spare and sketchy, loose, expressive, and fun. The character design is to die for just as their accessories and vehicles and whatnot are a total thrill. Nice cartoonish figures, Oliveri’s work reminds me of Cagliostro or Nausicaä, clear and decisive countours, bold but not yet so smoothly polished and locked down as the later Ghibli films. There’s an indie rock fragility to No Love Lost I think is essential. So maybe there’s Rosemary Valero-O’Connell in there, or The Real Folk Blues. Modern gourmet comics where everyone has shōjo romance lips and should be kissing. 

How much of what there is is ultimately what I find so compelling about Luca Oliveri’s work. The cool shit stuff. I want the buzz from the fantasy tank pursuit to carry on indefinitely, more scenes where combatants are leagues apart during the battle. But not if that means sacrificing moments of atmosphere (delicious) or character drama (spectacular). They’ve got a corporate job no doubt, but these are bad kids. Taking drugs and feeling distraught. Blowing up monsters and looking really good doing it. The tank fight bangs because of the charisma of the folks inside it. Each dose of story is measured, each blow is planned and lands a knockout.

As Volume Alpha, this one ends not like a closing book, but as a door being opened. A testament to the power of what is. My favorite part was a glimpse that left me dreaming. The fragments we’re shown of what may come to pass are as inexhaustibly inspiring. The anticipation ignites imagination and it becomes what feeds you as well as what makes you hungry. The promise is enough.

Peow Studio / $17.00
Written and illustrated by Luca Oliveri.
Designed by P. Crotty.

‘No Love Lost’ is available now. For purchasing information, click this.

More Required Reading:

Between people and programming lies Shimada’s ‘Robo Sapiens’

“The Death of Speedy Ortiz”: Comics’ legendary pulp romance, breaking hearts since 1987

Don’t dare miss Hiroaki Samura’s challenging, poetic ‘Blade of the Immortal’