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By Brandy DykhuizenViolent Love is, unsurprisingly, a pulpy criminal romance. Complete with a let-me-tell-you-a-tale narration (our storyteller even drops a “these here parts” in there) and a touching father-daughter yarn to draw us in, the cinematic tone of Image Comics’ latest is no accident. The variant cover is what might have happened had Darwyn Cooke designed movie posters instead, and the Love‘s designer, Dylan Todd, has no problem throwing the protagonists’ names up in marquee lights. Even Daisy Jane and Rock Bradley’s “love consumed everything in its wake” premise feels like an epic tagline.

And yet, when we approach Violent Love, it feels more like a methodically-paced novel. For one, we don’t encounter Rock straight away. Issue #1 is devoted to the development of Daisy, and writer Frank Barbiere takes us all the way back to her youth in a small Southern California town, where a complex relationship with her father would fuel her later furies. We don’t know who the narrator is, or why he decides to tell Rock & Daisy’s story to the little girl who just wandered into his house, or what their relationships are to each other or even to our legendary bandits. Right now we’re just strangers, invited to take a seat at a Texas table as a retired lawman regales us with the stuff of local legend.

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Victor Santos complements Barbiere’s pulpy tone, with a ’70s palette plastered all over the ensuing pages, filled with rough, almost dirty shadows. The scenes of violence contrast beautifully with the small town set-up, with the inky reds practically popping and splattering off the page. This is one well-crafted work, both in term of story and art, and every page is a joy to behold.

It doesn’t take long to become fully invested in Daisy’s and her father’s plight, or to feel like you might continue rooting for her, no matter what terrible hell she unleashes in the future. As it’s written on the last page, “Good love is not safe.” It can make monsters of us all, and surely Daisy’s revenge will not be swift and gentle for her father’s captors. Violent Love is a fantastic story in which to get lost. It’s arrived right when many of us are seeking such a retreat. Highly recommended.

Image Comics/$3.99

Written by Frank J. Barbiere.

Art by Victor Santos.

Design by Dylan Todd.

8.5 out of 10

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